Case Closed Volume 13
Like an episode of a good television serial, the latest edition of Case Closed by Gosho Aoyama may not be outstanding or unique, but it is entertaining in a fashion consistent with the series overall. (The most recent entry in the series I’ve reviewed was volume 11.)
First comes the conclusion to the last case from the previous book. I do wish that they would divvy up the chapters better, or more prominently label the books — I would have liked to have reread volume 12 before reading this one, but I didn’t have the previous book with me when I had the chance to start volume 13. That blunted the enjoyment for me, since I didn’t remember the characters or situation from a few months ago.
The next case, featuring the affianced children of two prominent families, is in keeping with what I think of as the typical CC mystery. The murder victim is a family patriarch upset with his children not following in his footsteps, providing plenty of motives among the siblings with various secrets. The beach house setting also provides eye candy, as the girls enjoy the sun.
The three-chapter setup is a great length, with the first chapter introducing the characters and the mystery; the second elaborating the situation, ending with the cliffhanger that Conan has figured it out; and the third providing the solution. The explicit indication of when Conan solves the mystery allows the reader to play along. It reminds me of the page that used to be included in the old Ellery Queen mysteries, showing the reader when to stop and make their guess.
The next mystery isn’t as satisfying. It involves a bearded, middle-aged artist and the young assistant he’s been having an affair with. She was also ghosting some of his art, providing his motive for murder. This one is thus a howdunit instead of a whodunit.
A moment’s thought shows just how many coincidences and handwavings the story relies upon: A certain nail polish color is only on sale starting the day of the murder, and several people know that, and it’s distinctive enough to be recognized (as opposed to everyone going “well, it was red”). While cleaning up after a murder and creating a convoluted setup, an artist never notices that one of his fingernails is painted. The murderer happens to grab something that everyone knows the victim should have (a bottle of contact lens solution) instead of one of a myriad of other possibilities that wouldn’t be missed (a bottle of perfume, say, or something else from the fridge). The setup involves working with the bottle of contact lens solution, but the murderer doesn’t ever notice that and puts glasses on the victim. Conan’s accidental-on-purpose reveal happens to pick the right leg.
All together, it seemed clever, but it fell apart once the story was over. I did, however, get a silly kick from the completely coincidental way that the mystery involved fooling around with cell phones and answering machines, given that the artist (to my eye) resembled Warren Ellis.
The last mystery (this book gives great value!) is touching, featuring the three kids Conan’s (physical) age. They’re taken to the movie studio as a treat to see the filming of the last Gomera (think Godzilla) picture. The movie crew aren’t happy to be ending their series after 10 years, but the producer thinks its time has past.
The kids are adorable, refusing to believe that the man in the suit is really their beloved monster. He must just be a double, they tell themselves, because the real Gomera must be caged, because he’s so big he’d be dangerous. Their creativity in finding answers that make sense to them (it’s ok that there won’t be any more movies because “Gomera will finally get to return to the island where he was born”) is charming and inspirational.
I’d seen the plot twist before (in Death on the Nile, starring Manimal), so what stuck with me about this case was the emotional impact of the ending. The last four pages include touching dedication and nostalgic farewell, powerfully portrayed in a short space.