Author: Edogawa Rampo (江戸川乱歩)
Published by 集英社文庫
This is the seventh book in the Kogoro Akechi collection published by Shueisha. Kogoro Akechi is a fictional detective created by Edogawa Rampo. My reading challenge for 2021 is to finish the whole collection of 12 books by reading one book per month.
This is my favourite book of the series! First of all, we meet Fumiyo again, the only interesting female character of the whole series. She appeared first in 『魔術師』where she played a major role in the plot. Now, she works with Kogoro Akechi as his assistant and is described as a female detective. We also meet the young Kobayashi who helps Akechi and works in his office (and who will become the main protagonist in the 少年探偵団 series).
Contrary to the previous stories where Akechi worked alone, we now see a team building itself. In previous novels, Akechi’s life and whereabouts were kept mysterious, we knew for example that he just came back from abroad, but we didn’t know what he was doing there. There were no mention of where he lived, he just appeared out of nowhere to solve the crime. With 『吸血鬼』, Kogoro Akechi feels more tangible and human.
The plot is also excellent, one of the most complex of the series with several good twists. Generally, the mystery in the novels of the series is easy to crack, and I think that most readers know what will happen next, or have a good idea about who is who or what tricks the author is using. This novel, however, managed to surprise me several times and reading it was really exciting.
Similarly to 『魔術師』, there were a good amount of memorable scenes in this book. To cite only one, I really loved the scene of the coffin. It is quite long, but very well described and extremely immersive. Overall, this novel is just a succession of great moments, there is both deduction, action and horror in a perfect mix.
I also liked how everything is explained in this novel. Most of the time, in the other novels, the story lacks realism, with criminals who make impossible escapes and other tricks like disguise or the use of mannequins that are not credible. I felt that at the end of the novels, a lot of mysteries were left untouched, but in this one, everything is explained in a long but exciting passage where Akechi reveals the truth and how he found it.
However, what I loved the most in this novel lies elsewhere: for the first time since the first short stories of the series, the criminal has a motive. In all the other novels, the criminal kills people because he is “the worst and most dangerous criminal of all times”, and that’s it. There is no explanation, no reason for their actions. In 『吸血鬼』, people have their reasons for acting like they do, and instead of having just a big villain, we have secret motives and a somber past.
Finally, the end of the novel was excellent with a fun hint to one of Edogawa Rampo’s most famous work.
With 『魔術師』and the short stories of the first book, this is my favourite novel of the series. Hopefully, the next one will be as good!
Hello – thank you for your review! I love reading your posts – your enthusiasm is contagious, and they are a great introduction to Japanese authors I haven’t read. I’m thinking of giving Rampo a go – I haven’t read any of his. One question: does this series need to be read in order, do you think? Or are the books functionally independent?
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Thank you very much 🙂
The stories are all independent, so they can be read in any order. The author does refer briefly to previous books from time to time, but it is not necessary to have read them to follow or enjoy the story. The only recurring character who has a little bit of a background story is Fumiyo. She first appears in 魔術師 and comes back in the following novels, so it might be slightly better to read 魔術師 before the ones that follow, but again, it is not necessary.
I also read that there is a recurring villain (the Fiend with Twenty Faces), but I believe that this mostly refers to the 少年探偵団シリーズ, and not the main Akechi series.