Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Deputy Inspector Fukuie's Greeting

福家警部補の挨拶 (Fukuie keibuho no aisatsu, Deputy Inspector Fukuie's Greeting, 2006) is a collection of long short stories by OOKURA Takahiro (大倉崇裕, born 1968). The stories are all inverted mysteries, a format familiar from the television series Columbo. We see the crime being committed in the first chapter, then watch the investigation. Columbo is well known in Japan, which also has its own version of the format, FURUHATA Ninzaburou (古畑任三郎), whom I know only from Ho-Ling Wong's reviews. There are other books in the Fukuie series, and two television adaptations in 2009 and 2014, which I haven't seen.

Columbo is often underestimated by his suspects because of his shabby dress and chaotic behaviour. Something similar is going on in the Fukuie stories, most of it centering on the fact that Fukuie is a woman. The only Columbo style clumsiness comes in a tendency to find she has mislaid her police identification when she first appears on the crime scene (the stories all have a number of recurring set pieces like this, not very funny bits of humour which look like they are there in anticipation of the television series). Fukuie is in her thirties, but looks younger. On the surface her manners are correct and self effacing; but she pursues her goals with ruthless persistance and complete indifference to the reactions of others.

The four stories have varied settings (a library, the forensic medicine department of a university, the world of television drama, a sake brewery) and the culprits have different motives, some more sympathetic than others. Neither the settings nor the characters seem very vivid. Even the title character is seen only with outsiders' eyes. The interest in stories like this is to spot how the detective has found out the truth that we already know, sometimes through the significance of something we know, sometimes because something that we did not know can be deduced. I must admit that I never really engaged with the puzzle aspect of the stories, perhaps because I don't read many inverted mysteries. My reaction to the solutions was always more "Ah, OK, fair enough" than "My God, how could I have missed that?"

No comments:

Post a Comment