In the back of my mind when I started The Invisible Event was the idea that exactly half of what I’d post about would feature impossible crimes, locked room mysteries, and/or miracle problems — and although this proportion started an irreversible slide after the first 500 or so posts, the impossible crime remains my first love.Continue reading
“I don’t want to die. I… I… don’t want to die. I have to get home. My three sisters will be murdered. But… but… I’m done for. Kindaichi-san, please… please go to Gokumon Island in my place…” — thus is Kosuke Kindaichi exhorted by a dying brother in arms as they are demobilised after the end of the Second World War. And so the detective goes to Gokumon Island, meets Chimata Kito’s family, and tries to untangle the maelstrom of violence and confusion that descends upon the island as, sure enough, Chimata’s three sisters Tsukiyo, Yukie, and Hanako are killed one by one. In principle it’s a gripping idea, but in practice it made for me the least interesting of the four Seishi Yokomizo mysteries thus far translated.
If ever you come back, there will be blood! Blood! So runs the anonymous note melodramatically warning 29 year-old Tatsuya Terada against returning to the isolated Village of Eight Graves, out of which he was smuggled as a toddler. However, it seems that he is the heir to the Tajimi family fortune, which in turn links him inextricably to the terrible violence that traumatised the village 26 years ago, and give many cause to see him as a bird of ill omen. Sure enough, upon his arrival at his wealthy family’s vast estate, people start to die. Quite a lot of people. People who were very much alive before Tatsuya Tajimi showed up.
When a wealthy businessman bestows his fortune upon a lowly member of his household to the chagrin of his rapacious offspring, you can bet your bottom dollar that some heads are going to (sometimes literally) roll. Rian Johnson’s Knives Out (2019) might be the only time this setup hasn’t resulted in a bloodbath, but The Inugami Curse (1951) by Seishi Yokomizo is from further up the scale. Old sins and their long shadows will get a good airing as stabbings, poisonings, decapitations, stranglings, and even some homicidal wordplay get a murderous field trip to remember. It is, to say the very least, memorable.
You’re doubtless aware of the superbly wide-ranging Golden Age-focussed Shedunnit podcast run by Caroline Crampton, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to an episode about locked room mysteries and impossible crimes. The results are now online for your listening pleasure.