Book review: 『魔術師』 by Edogawa Rampo

Introduction

Title: 『魔術師』 (まじゅつし)
Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
Publisher: 集英社文庫
315 pages

This is the 5th book in the Kogoro Akechi (明智小五郎) collection, and my reading challenge for 2021 is to read one book per month.

Review

「今度の賊は犯罪史上に前例もないほど恐ろしいやつだ。」 (At this point, I feel like there is a similar statement in each and every Akechi novel… 😅)

Great story

I absolutely loved this novel. The story is really great, it feels like reading Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Alan Poe and Gaston Leroux at the same time. Mysterious threatening letters and a locked room mystery… I am here for that!

I also found that the novel remains suspenseful and engaging until the end. Even though there are some predictable events, the story always find a way to trigger the reader’s curiosity. This is the fifth book of the series that I read, and I find that the story tends to become repetitive after a while in longer novels. 『魔術師』 keeps surprising the reader with unexpected scenes and twists, and it is my favourite novel so far.

Closer to the first Akechi

In the last two novels, Akechi only appeared briefly and very late, but in 『魔術師』 he is here right from the beginning. The reader is also able to feel closer to him than in the previous novels: we follow him in his investigation, and he feels like a concrete character who actually has a place to live and is animated by feelings. As a result, I found that this novel felt like reading the first short stories, where Akechi was actually our protagonist and not just some kind of deus ex machina intervention to solve the mystery at the end of the novel.

Memorable scenes

What really surprised me in this novel is how spooky some scenes are. There were dismembered bodies and things like that in the previous books, but this one brings things to the next level with very memorable scenes. The scene of the clock was very striking and not one I am likely to forget. The magic show was also quite disturbing. Overall, I found every single scene of this novel much better than any of the previous ones. Characters are not just simply locked in dark rooms, there are chilling details and sinister background stories that make this novel stand out compared to the others.

Conclusion

I did not really like the previous novel 『猟奇の果』, and overall, I found that I was liking the Kogoro Akechi books less and less, so this one came as a pleasant surprise. I also found that the narrator often hinted at previous stories, creating a complicity with the reader who has been reading the whole series… it feels good to be a part of it 🙂

Illustration: 実は福田氏は飼っている純白の牡猫なのだが… (if you read the story, you’ll know that my drawing is not accurate, but it was easier to leave it like that.)