Title: 『猟奇の果』 (りょうきのはて)
Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
Published by 集英社文庫
This is the fourth book of the collection 明智小五郎件簿 by publisher 集英社文庫.
My reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book of the collection per month (there are 12 books in total).
I start wondering if reading one Kogoro Akechi every month was a good idea, because it feels like I am always reading the same book. The plot is different in every novel obviously, but there are patterns and situations that Edogawa Rampo uses in every book, and it start feeling very repetitive to me: the protagonist obsessed with crime and detective novels, the mysterious house with mysterious rooms, parts of dismembered bodies scattered in the city…
To be honest, I did not really like this book because it feels so far away from the first short stories that I greatly loved. In the first Akechi stories, there was a lot of psychology involved and also a lot of deduction. Why would people commit murder? how would they react afterwards? These questions were inherent to the stories. Here, I found that the characters’ motivations were not always clear, the focus being more to describe the deeds themselves than to reflect on what led to them.
In the first stories, there were also theories of crime and investigation: is the perfect crime possible? are witnesses reliable? and so on. In 『猟奇の果』 , there is no detective deductions. Every lead is found by chance (if you wander in a park at night, you are sure to find a lead), and there is more tailing than deduction going on.
This made me feel like I was reading a thriller rather than a detective novel. Similarly to the precedent novel, Kogoro Akechi also appears quite late in the book. We also don’t really see him investigating, he just appears with the solution at some point.
I was not fan of the mechanism employed in this novel, it felt like reading SF. I love realistic novels, and so I had a hard time feeling interested in this one.
The novel is divided into two parts and they are very different. I loved the atmosphere of the first part, it has this mystery going on and some good spine-chilling moments. However, there is also a lot of shadowing and not much deductions, so I soon started to feel a little bored.
Akechi appears in the second part, so I was expecting more detective work. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of Akechi, and we mostly see how the villains fulfil their scheme. Compared to the first part, the second one is much larger in scale and the pace is much faster.
This feels a little off balance because the book spends a lot of time (the whole part 1) describing events that are not that important to the story, leaving the same amount of space (part 2) for the core of the plot, which is a large-scaled machination with political implications and a criminal organisation. I think that it would have been better if each part was a novel in itself.
The end also felt a little quick, but this was already the case in previous novels so I was expecting it.
So far, this is the novel I liked the less. The series is still addictive though, and I can’t wait to start the next one. Maybe those repetitive patterns are what makes this series so addictive, I can’t wait to see more dismembered bodies I guess… (edit: I started the fifth book after writing this review and we do start things off with a severed head floating on the Sumida river.)
Illustration: 「前の車だ、あれを見失わぬように、どこまでも尾行してくれたまえ」「大丈夫ですよ。この夜ふけに、まぎれる車がないから、めったに見失うことはありやしませんや」 p.65