Sunday, 23 June 2013

And then the door shut

Outside of genre literature, writing teams are rare.  Somerville and Ross is the only one that occurs to me. But science fiction (e. g. Pohl and Kornbluth) and detective fiction (Ellery Queen, Patrick Quentin, Sjöwall and Wahlöö, Boileau-Narcejac) have many examples. OKAJIMA Futari (岡嶋二人) is the pseudonym of two Japanese crime writers.  According to Wikipedia, the name can be understood as meaning 'Odd pair'.

"And then the door closed" (そして扉が閉ざされた) is a mystery published in 1987.  The viewpoint character Yuuichi wakes up on the floor of an atomic bomb shelter in the grounds of the villa of his former girlfriend Sakiko's family. He and three others have been drugged and locked in by Sakiko's mother.  The four had been holidaying with Sakiko months before, when Sakiko's Alfa Romeo had gone over a cliff in a mysterious accident.  Now they are locked in the bomb shelter.  On the wall of the toilet are photographs of Sakiko and her car, and the words "You people killed her" written in red paint.

I mentioned Patrick Quentin above; and the style of the mystery reminds me of some of his books. (The extreme situation is a bit like "Puzzle for Fiends", for instance.)  As with many of Quentin's later works, the mystery unfolds in stages, with major revelations leading to the next part of the puzzle and suspicion shifting to each of the major characters.  The action is divided between the bomb shelter, as the prisoners puzzle and argue over the case and try to find a way to break out, and flashbacks to Yuuichi's memory of the events themselves. The mystery itself is perfectly satisfactory, without having any elements that make it really outstanding.  But it's an entertaining book and a nice exercise in the closed circle detective story, with almost everything depending on the memories and arguments of the four prisoners.

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