There are 5 short detective stories in 『探偵倶楽部』(The Membership Detective Club – たんていくらぶ) by Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾) and I loved every single one of them!
The stories all feature the Membership Detective Club, but the detectives are not the protagonists. The stories mainly focus on the people that are involved or find themselves involved in a murder case. The police is also playing a part in some of the stories, creating a tension between people trying to hide things, police officers who try to solve the case, and the detective agency working in the shadows.
But what is really amazing in these stories is the the complexity of the case. You would think that a detective story of 50-60 pages can only have a straightforward plot because there is no room for plot twists, but Higashino is able to condense a very complex story in a few pages. I have been surprised in every single short story because the end turned out to be very different from what I expected. I always consider myself blessed when I can enjoy a good plot twist in a detective novel, but being offered 5 in a row is a real delight!
Each short story is like a detective novel that would have been squeezed to extract only the essential information surrounding the murder and the investigation. Of course, I enjoy novels where the characters and the setting are well built, where the reader gets involved and where the relationships between the characters evolved and so on. But sometimes, I just want to know who done it and how, I don’t want the author to describe every object of the room, and I cannot wait to read the final revelation. If you feel like that, you should read 『探偵倶楽部』!
To give you an example of how exciting the short stories are, the second short story “罠の中” opens on the discussion of three persons planning the murder of a fourth one. We don’t know the names of the would-be criminals and we don’t know who they intend to murder and how. We only have a little indication. Then we are at a dinner party with ten or so participants. We know that the murder will happen there, but we don’t know who will be involved and how it will be done. That’s exactly the kind of stories I want to read!
Last but not least, a word about the Japanese difficulty of this book. It is not more difficult than other books by Higashino, but I found that there was a lot of names to remember. Especially in the first two short stories where all the persons are introduced almost at the same time. If you like short stories, you could also have a look at the sixth book of the Detective Kaga series called 『嘘をもうひとつだけ』. I remember that it was much easier to read than 『探偵倶楽部』.
To conclude, I loved this book, and I found it very refreshing to read short stories, even if it is not usually my favourite genre!