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Q.E.D. iff, vol. 5, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
Motohiro has come out with a new crime mystery novel, entitled, "Tukamaetamongati!" (捕まえたもん勝ち = "I Can Make Arrests!"), illustrated by Nanakawa. It features a rookie detective named Kikuno Tanabata - AKA, Kick (because she keeps defeating top-level black belt martial artists by kicking them in the head). To tie Kick in with the rest of his universe, Motohiro features her in cross-over stories in the last chapters of both Q.E.D. iff 5 and C.M.B. 33.
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(Two hikers find the body of Ren Ahikaga in the hills.)
I-bun ("Even", Magajin R #4, 2016)
Two hikers are out on a mountainside when they discover the mangled body of Ren Ashikaga, a university student. The police are summoned, and they discover what looks like a suicide note ("I was dumped by my girlfriend, I can't bear to live anymore"). The next day, Kana Mizuhara is visiting her father in the hospital, and she's infuriated at him. The Det. had been investigating a theft at a pachinko parlor, and one guy in a car was drawing attention as he demanded to take his pregnant wife to the hospital. Mizuhara got suspicious, and the driver hit the gas pedal. Mizuhara grabbed the steering wheel through the open window, and the driver yelled "die!" as he aimed for a concrete light pole. The airbags deployed, knocking out the driver and the passenger (who was hiding the stolen money under her shirt). Mizuhara made the arrest, but he injured his leg badly enough to have to spend the next week in the hospital. Kana goes out of the room to do her father's laundry, and notices a suspicious-looking person sneaking out of another room. The door is left open. Inside, she sees Ashikaga in a coma in bed, with his air mask off his face, and his life support turned off. Kana chases the person (with the mask, sunglasses and trenchcoat, it could be a man or a woman), telling some police nearby to arrest that person. But, the suspect turns down a deadend hallway and disappears. The police find a white trenchcoat on the floor, but the suspect is gone. Kana asks Touma for help, quietly, because she doesn't want her father to get out of bed and hobble around on crutches to solve the case.
(Touma grills the three people that had visited Ren that day, the guy Shinta, the cute girl Nana, and Shinta's fan, Sana.)
Touma checks the visitor log, and learns that three people had signed in to the hospital that day, and he connects them to the supposed suicide jumper. Now, though, this is a pretty clear case of attempted murder. Initially, the situation is pretty muddled. The first visitor was Nana Tejima, who complains that Ashikaga had been trying to ask her out on a date, and she'd turned him down. Kana is immediately approached by Sana Sendou, who says that Nana is lying and to not trust anything she says. Sana mentions that Nana had been in a car accident, and Ashikaga had given her $1,200 to have her car repaired. But, Nana has lots of expensive clothes, and therefore must have been leeching off the guy. The third name on the visitor list is for Shinta Koshimoto. And this is where things get messy. To make Ashikaga leave her alone, Nana claims she had asked Shinta to pretend to be her boyfriend, and they staged a kiss when Ashikaga "happened" by. But, Shinta really is Nana's boyfriend, which is why Sana hates her so much. Shinta is the star runner on the university's track team, and Sana considers herself Shinta's biggest fan. Shinta, meanwhile, knows who Sana is and has no interest in her. On top of all this, all 4 of them are in the same German class. The teacher had lived in Germany for a few years, and therefore treats himself as an expert on the language. His tests are very severe, and if you fail one, you have to take the class over. Ashikaga was the best student in the class, and everyone had asked to copy his notes in trade for small favors, like free lunches and the like. Nana had gotten his notes in exchange for her scented handkerchief. But, someone had broken into the teacher's car to steal his exam notes, so the teacher was rewriting the test, and all the students are in a bind because Ashikaga is still in a coma. Kana is instructed by Touma to ask Shinta why he'd agreed to stage the fake kiss with Nana, and the boy answers that Ashikaga is a pervert; after one of the classes, when he'd thought the room was empty, Shinta spied Ashikaga looking out the window in a daze, deeply breathing the perfume from Nana's hanky. What remains now is where Nana's money is coming from, and it turns out that she's working part-time at a cabaret club as a "hostess," which would be a minor scandal if the news got out. Topping all this, Shinta decides to dump Nana as being too clingy, so he can go overseas to study for an MBA, causing Sana to further accuse Nana of being responsible for her idol's giving up his dreams to be an international track star.
Questions: Is someone really trying to kill Ashikaga? Is it Nana, to keep him from telling everyone she's working as a hostess? Is it Shinta, to protect Nana from the pervert? Is it Sana, trying to frame Nana for murder to get her away from Sana's beloved track star? What about the incident in the hospital - how did Ashikaga's attacker disappear from the deadend hallway? And, does Kana's father learn about the mystery and get out of bed to solve it himself?
(Notes: Each of the character's names this time include the names of body parts. Ashi = leg or foot; Te = hand; Dou = Head; Koshi = back.)
(Kick interviews Kana's father to investigate charges of department fraud.)
Fukanzenna Misshitsu ("The Imperfect Sealed Room Mystery", Magajin R #5, 2016)
Det. Mizuhara has recovered and is out of the hospital. He's investigating a closed room murder mystery, and he discovers a pool of blood under some drums in a garage behind a house, indicating that the murder may have occurred here, absolving the suspect of the crime. The suspect, an old woman named Satoko Itami, is allowed to go free. Which causes problems for the captain of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. It's looking like sloppy investigative work, and the captain orders a new subordinate, Kikuno Tanabata, to snoop around and find the truth. Kiku goes to talk to Koutarou Mizuhara (the captain's sempai in school), and he recognizes her name as being for the legendary "Kick," the rookie that has been defeating top level black belts in martial arts training. He tells her to "talk to that girl," pointing to Kana out the window (Kana had dropped by the station to give her father the bento lunch box he'd forgotten at home). Kick gets super-serious about her job and attempts to hold Kana as a witness, until learning her mistake. The goal was for Kick to meet Touma.
(Kick confronts Chitose over charges of his protege tampering with evidence.)
There is corruption in the Sakisaka department, and the problem is how to get people to start talking about it. The current case is related to an older case from about 2 years prior. In the current case, a rice delivery man went to the home of retired detective Takamatsu to drop off a package, and saw Takamatsu through a window - he was dead in bed, with a knife in his chest. The police entered the house and found an old woman knocked out just inside. The woman, Satoko, is a nurse and had been treating Takamatsu's diabetes with daily insulin shots. Investigators tied her to the earlier case, and arrested her on charges. But, Mizuhara's discovery of the blood in the garage caused the charges to collapse and the nurse was set free. Now, in the original case, there was a "black school" run by a crime gang that would use hostesses to lure kids to a cafe, where thugs would then pressure them into signing contracts that would drain their bank accounts. One night, one of those hostesses was found stabbed in the chest with a knife, sitting on the floor next to the toilet in one of the stalls of the women's bathroom in a dance club. The club personnel rushed to the toilet, but the hostess was dead then. A security camera aimed at the restroom doors from outside showed the victim entering the room, then followed by 2 women, who came back out, and then another woman who found the body, and finally by the crowd. It was a closed room mystery. The lead investigator on the case was an elite up-and-coming newbie named Souji Miyako. Miyako was tired of being stuck at a desk, and he used this case to make a name for himself. He located one potential suspect, Takeo Itami, and tried to pin the murder on him. Takeo had a solid alibi (he'd been at a karaoke club with friends all night). But, Miyako found someone that claimed Takeo had said he wanted to kill the hostess who'd tricked him into signing the contract at the "black school." Takeo was arrested, and after a few days, he committed suicide. Miyako was promoted, because he comes from a powerful family, and one of the higher-ups in the police department has taken him on as a mentor. Everyone else knows that Miyako screwed up, but they're too scared to talk.
The tie-in to the Takamatsu murder: Takamatsu was one of the detectives that had interviewed Takeo. Takamatsu's nurse is Takeo's mother, Satoko. And, the investigator that ordered Satoko arrested was Souji Miyako. With the blood in the garage indicating that the murder occurred elsewhere, Miyako's case against Satoko is in danger of collapsing, and Miyako's mentor, the head of the Tokyo Police department detectives, Kenji Chitose, resents both Mizuhara and Kick for tarnishing his protege's image.
Questions: What was the trick used in the dance club murder? Who was the killer, and what was their motive? What was the next trick, used in the Takamatsu case? And what was the motive there? How did Miyako get his case to stick against Takeo, when he had no evidence to work with? What is he going to do now against Satoko, and can Kick do anything in the face of Chitose's desire to protect Miyako?
Summary: I've said before, and I'll say again, I prefer the stories that have science or technology in them, and neither of these stories have that. Even is an ok procedural, and I did get misled enough that I didn't figure out the mystery by myself, although the trick of the disappearing suspect in the hospital was pretty easy. I would have liked Imperfect Sealed Room better if Touma was the main hero. I can understand Motohiro's desire to use this spotlight to promote his new novel, but Kick isn't a particularly interesting character on her own. Touma makes the calls, and Kick just goes through the motions. All we know about her so far is that she has a reputation as a fighter, she won't back down from threats from her superiors, and she is very gung-ho about her work. Recommended if you like the rest of the series.