The Moai Island Puzzle (英語) ペーパーバック – 2016/3/15
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Three students from Eito University in Kyoto travel to a remote island populated with moai statues in order to find hidden treasure, but several murders occur before it can be located. Don't be fooled by the bland description. The locked room murder is brilliant and worthy of John Dickson Carr at his best, and the dying message and chain of deduction leading to the killer rival anything written by Ellery Queen. Neither Carr nor Queen ever combined both in one novel.This is an outstanding example of Japanese honkaku with an introduction by the maestro, Soji ShimadaLocked Room International publishes impossible crime novels by authors past and present.
Born in 1959 in Osaka, Japan, Alice Arisugawa obtained a Bachelor of Law from Doshisha University. In 1989, he made a literary debut with "Gekko Game" (The Moonlight Game). In 2003, he won The Mystery Writers of Japan Award with "Malay Tetsudo no Nazo" (The Malayan Railway Mystery); and in 2008, he won The Honkaku Mystery Award with "Jo-okoku no Shiro" (The Castle of the Queendom). His other works include "Soto no Akuma" (Double-Headed Devil), "Yamabushi Jizobo no Horo (Bohemian Dreams), and many others. He served as the first chairperson for The Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan.
Sharp reasoning will be needed. The grandfather who first bought the island, was an eccentric who loved puzzles. He had twenty-five Moai statues carved and placed all over the island. He also hid a fortune in diamonds somewhere on the island, inviting anyone who could find the treasure to keep it. The students plan to try their wits on the treasure hunt.
Death enters the picture in the form of a locked room mystery. The three students, despite their extensive reading of crime novels, are thoroughly perplexed. Meanwhile the island is well stocked with guests, most of them relatives. Among them lurks a murderer. Since the island is cut off from communicating with the mainland for days, it's up to the students to find the killer.
The personalities of the three students are appealing. They are all articulate, intelligent in different ways, and acutely observant. And the narrator Alice is charmingly self-effacing.
I was not up to solving the mystery, which is quite complicated, but I thoroughly enjoyed the amateur sleuthing.
This is my first experience of "shin honkaku," the Japanese form of the Golden Age puzzle mystery. It's fun to find so many Golden Age conventions in a Japanese novel. The introduction by an author I especially admire, Soji Shimada, is very informative on various developments in crime fiction both East and West.
Alice, Maria and Egami, three university students in a mystery fiction club, head to an isolated tropical island filled with moai statues all pointing in different directions. The statues seem to hold the key to locating a wealth of diamonds hidden by Maria’s grandfather. Waiting on the island are eight members of Maria’s family as well as two family friends. Arisugawa does an excellent job in introducing the cast and island, creating a lighthearted game-like atmosphere to locate the treasure. However, the fun ends when a typhoon hits the island and a series of murders begin to occur. With the radio destroyed and contact to the mainland impossible, the members of the island quickly realize the murderer is among them. The mysteries in the novel are reminiscent of puzzle plots done by Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr. It’s an absolute treat for any hardcore mystery fan because you’re provided with all the clues and can engage in a faithful deduction game. Similar to Soji Shimada’s The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, Arisugawa makes sure to include a challenge to the reader right before the denouement. The Moai Island Puzzle is an addictive and incredibly absorbing read, highly recommended to every mystery fan.
I really enjoyed it. But don't do what I did. I got bored with the introductory essay on mystery genres and went to Chapter I and got lost. There is a Prologue, critical list of characters, and a map of the island that's put at the end of the introduction with no Table of Contents entry. You don't want to miss that. Trust me.