Book review: 『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』by Tokuya Higashigawa

Introduction


Title: 『完全犯罪に猫は何匹必要か?』(かんぜんはんざいにねこはなんびきひつようか?)
Author: Tokuya Higashigawa (東川篤哉)
Published by 光文社文庫
458 pages.

This is the third novel in the Ikagawa series (烏賊川市シリーズ), a comical detective series featuring private detective Morio Ukai. Ukai might be the worst fictional detective I know, but he somehow manages to solve murder cases in spite of his dubious deductions.

Review

It took me some time to get into the story, but it turned out to be very good: a captivating murder mystery with alibis that are too good to be true and weird witness statements. I found the story excellent, but similarly to the second book of the story, I also did not always connect with scenes that only serve the comical aspect of the book.

This series feature two sets of characters: private detective Morio Ukai and his assistant Ryuhei Tomura on one side, and chief inspector Sunagawa and his subordinate detective Shiki on the other side.

I always found interesting that this series does not follow the pattern ”genius detective vs incompetent police officers”. Here the police detectives are actually quite good, and in this novel in particular, they are the ones who do all the job, and private detective Ukai looks more like a secondary character than the protagonist of the series.

I found the parts were we follow Sunagawa and Shiki to be much more interesting than the ones with Morio and Ryuhei. First, the police detectives are investigating a murder, whereas our private detective’s mission in this novel is to find a missing cat. Moreover, I found that some scenes featuring Morio Ukai and his team were often serving a comical purpose only and did not add much to the story.

The title of the book was very intriguing, but it turns out that this book is more about lucky cats than real cats…

When it comes to comical effects, I find that there are two types in this novel. The first type is when a scene that serves the plot and the investigation is told in a comical way. For example the scene when chief inspector Sunagawa asks witnesses to report on what they saw at different hours is described as if Sunagawa was an auctioneer trying to sell those said hours. I found this creative and very funny to read. The second type are scenes that are here just to add humour to the novel but which do not serve the story. For example, when Ukai fights with his landlady. I felt that this type of scenes would look great if the book was an anime, but I did not really enjoy reading them.

Overall, the murder case is excellent and engrossing, and while I found the humour partly good, partly unnecessary, it all comes down to a question of personal taste in the end. But comical effects aside, the author really has great ideas when it comes to writing murder mysteries, and this alone makes me want to continue the series.