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Q.E.D., vol. 50, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
I'm torn over this volume. On the one hand, I want to like the inclusion of science again in the first story. On the other, the main characters are supposed to be Americans, and it's more like Motohiro took a Japanese family and had them hold up signs saying "We're Americans". The main premise behind the motive for the crime is just not believable if the culprit was supposed to have grown up in the U.S. And he STILL can not draw feet...
(Discussing using CCDs to measure dark matter.)
Sally Brice was a young student at MIT at the same time Sou attended. He encountered her while she was hiding in a construction pipe on campus (and had gotten stuck) trying to avoid her fellow researchers. She's to experimental physics what Sou is to logic. That is, she's a genius. And Diem Clau wanted to tap into that genius in his attempts to use a germanium substrate in his sensors for detecting dark matter. The experiment failed because Diem's basic work had a lot of flaws. One year later, Sally encountered Sou at a park and thanked him for helping her out of that jam, and asked him to stand by her in the future if she needs it. Jump to the present. Sally now heads her own company producing helium cooling systems for major science projects. She's got the contract for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Cern, and someone sabotages it. The monitors show a shadowy image of the suspect, but when the security guards sweep the tunnels where one of the release valves was tampered with, no one's there. Looks like the suspect is a ghost. Next, the system for one of the telescopes on Mauna Kea is targeted by someone that leaves a small tray of radium near the scope's CCD, with the name "Sally" written on it. The radium introduced noise to the images captured by the CCD. Sally invites Sou to Hawai'i to help her out, and Kana drags herself along in order to get free lobster dinners. That night, Sally's parents, Nora and Leonard, fly into Hawai'i unannounced and meet her at the hotel. Both of them are highly successful, powerful politicians. Leonard is thrilled that Sally's company is running into trouble because he's a doting helicopter parent that wants his daughter where he can protect her. Nora is more practical, and gives Sally a necklace, saying that she's proud her daughter is following her own path.
(Trying to find neutrinos at Kamiokande.)
After the meal, Sally is a wreck. Her self-confidence has been shattered and she talks about closing down the company and returning home. Kana won't hear about it and pushes Sou to figure out what's going on. Sally's company's third major customer is the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. Sou lays a trap for the villain, but questions remain: Who is sabotaging Sally's customers? How is he or she getting into areas with extremely high security? Why is he/she doing this? What's the next target, exactly and how does Sou know where to look? Does Sally keep her company or not?
The science revolves around the need for very low temperatures at both Cern, Keck and Baikonur, plus superficial discussions of the search for evidence of dark matter. There's also a brief mention of the super pure water neutrino detector at Kamiokande, in Japan.
(A young boy that likes reading adventure books while hiding in a timber shed at a construction site witnesses a murder.)
Kana receives a letter in the mail telling her to follow the included instructions for making an escape game. The packet also has 200,000 yen ($2,000 USD) to cover expenses and salaries for any necessary part-time assistants. The game is set up in an abandoned warehouse, and is to consist of a series of puzzles and clues, with a 1,000,000 yen prize for the winner. On the day of the event, Sou and Kana man the registration table by themselves. The author of the game never shows up. Pretty soon, the entrants arrive - the psychic Akimi Maguro, former police detective Yasuji Saba, health food wholesaler Gousuke Tachi, part-time worker Misunoriyuki Iwashi and manga artist Akihiko Sanma. Kana follows the instructions, and takes the group through three puzzles. The first is to open a chest that contains a lion's head ring (owned by a former government official), the second leads to a dummy that is hanging by a noose around its neck, and the third to a child's adventure book. It becomes pretty clear quickly that the ring belonged to someone that had supposedly committed suicide in a storage shed on a construction site. But, there was a witness (a young boy that had been reading that adventure book and had taken the ring afterward) who saw the killer string up the victim, lock the shed from the inside and then escape. Maybe the current escape game is to get revenge on the killer, but the stakes are high - Kana and Sou are locked in with everyone else in the building, and a bomb has been taped to the only exit. None of the contestants can solve the clues, so Sou finds himself having to join in as a participant.
(The part-timer discovers that there's no way out of the game once it's started. The wholesaler finds out that there's no cell phone service, either.)
Questions: Who was the original killer and who was the witness? Why wait 16 years to catch the killer? What was the trick both people used to escape the shed? Is there a connection between each of the contestants? If not, why did they show up to enter the game? Does Sou solve the puzzle before the bomb goes off and everyone dies?
No science this time. And the trick is a variant of one used twice already in previous stories.
Comments: As I mentioned above, Sally's behavior, and that of her parents, just isn't something you'd see in the U.S. Her father, Leonard, is much more of the typical Japanese doting father. And the motive just falls apart. But, I like the artwork for Cern, Keck and Kamiokande. On the other hand, the escape game is kind of fun, although the clues are sort of forced. I'm not sure many people will figure them out on their own. And it's never really made clear why the killer murdered the victim 16 years earlier. Still, it's an easy read. Recommended if you like the series.