About the book
English Title: The Red Letter Mystery
Author: Yugo AOSAKI 青崎有吾
Published by 創元推理文庫 (Tokyo Sogensha)
Yugo AOSAKI is an author of mystery novels. His debut novel is 『体育館の殺人』which is also the first novel of the series Tenma URAZOME (裏染天馬シリーズ). After that, he published 『水族館の殺人』and 『風ヶ丘五十円玉祭りの謎』in the same series.
The book I am reviewing here is the fourth and most recent book of the same series: 『図書館の殺人』.
Note: the publisher has added a list of characters (their name with furigana and who they are) in the inside cover and at the beginning of the book. This is a brilliant idea that makes things much easier for us language learners!
When a body is found on the second floor of the local library, police officers ask Tenma URAZOME, a highschool student with remarquable observation and deduction skills, to help them with the case.
When it comes to detective novels, I prefer a serious and realistic investigation by police officers than an unconventional one conducted by a highschool prodigy. I would not mind seeing highschool students trying to solve the case by their own means, but when I saw that the police officers themselves asked for Tenma’s help, and that they discussed details of the case freely with the students, I was a little taken aback.
But although 『図書館の殺人』 is not quite the genre of detective novel that I like, I was engrossed in it from beginning to end. Behind the light tone of the novel, Tenma’s investigation and deductions are very solid. All the details of the case are explained at the end, everything makes sense, and if you are able to put all the pieces together you should be able to reach the same conclusion as Tenma. The author even challenges the reader to do so in a short chapter called 読者への挑戦 just before the solution is revealed. As for me, I was not even close…
I love reading whodunnits, but it is rare to find one where the reader can actually find the culprit by themselves. Even though I am not quite satisfied with『図書館の殺人』(I feel that it lacks a deeper insight into the characters’ psychology, to better grasp their intentions and motives), I enjoyed reading it, and I will certainly read the other books of the series too.
If you are interested in reading 『図書館の殺人』, I highly recommend you to start with 『体育館の殺人』instead and read the books of the series in order.
『図書館の殺人』does have an independant case not connected to the previous books of the series, so it is not such a big problem to start with『図書館の殺人』like I did. However, I think that all the books of the series feature the same characters (a group of highschool students), and if you don’t read the books in order, it will be difficult to fully appreciate how their personality or common past affect their relationship.
『図書館の殺人』being the fourth book of the series, the reader is supposed to know who is who. Even though the author introduces each character, I always felt that I had missed something (and indeed, I have!) and it was hard to feel involved in their discussions when they were not related to the case.