Monday, May 2, 2011

Hassle in the Castle

『人狼城の恐怖 第二部=フランス編』

"Kid, what are your thoughts about monsters like Satan, the Grim Reaper, goblins and the undead? Are you able to believe unconditionally in devils and monsters like that?"
"The Terror of Werewolf Castle Part Two: France"

The complete Jinroujou no Kyoufu ("The Terror of Werewolf Castle") review series:
1. What a Night for a Knight (Part One: Germany)
2. Hassle in the Castle (Part Two: France)
3. Nowhere to Hyde (Part Three: Detective)
4. Who's afraid of the Big Bad Werewolf? (Part Four: Conclusion)

Nikaidou Reito sure wasn't kidding with that longest detective novel thing. Jinroujou no Kyoufu ("The Terror of Werewolf Castle") is long. Really long. Really really long. Like, really, really, really long.

Well, at least I've passed the halfway mark! I'll refer to the review of the first book for an introduction to Jinroujou no Kyoufu and the review of Germany, the first part of the story, but to make a long (long!) story short: twin castles, the Silver Wolf Castle in Germany, the Blue Wolf Castle in France. A lot of people are murdered in the German Silver Wolf Castle in June 1970.

The second part France (or as the cover says: La Terreur Château du Loup-garou La Second Partie: France) urrrm... is set in France. Exactly like the title says. No surprises there. And indeed, like its twin castle, the Blue Wolf Castle is the stage for a wonderful massacre of lots of different people gathered at the castle. Add in a bunch of locked room murders, the suggestion of supernatural beings, underlying motives of the occult and odd architecture and you have all the ingredients of an interesting story. Or more precisely, part of a story.

Our narrator this time is a laywer called Laurent somethingsomething (I really wouldn't know how to write that name down in real French. Or even faux-French), who acts in the interests of a high-society club that wants turn Alsace back to German territory. One of the club's major sponsors is the current castle lord of the Blue Wolf Castle and a small party of the club is invited to visit him at his castle to discuss business.

So far, so good.

A couple of days before the trip, Laurent is contacted by an old friend, who introduces him to inspector Salamon (totally guessing the spelling of that name). Salamon tells Laurent the story of a secret Nazi project, an experimental astral body army. The people in this army are able to enter the bodies of dead people and then pass themselves off as the people they inhabit (they also have the power to temporarily recover from wounds and stuff, so the bodies won't rot while they live inside them). In their gaseous astral body form, they resemble wolves, thus their nickname "werewolf". After the war, three of these Nazi experimental weapons survived and continued their murdering spree, jumping from one body to another. Salamon has hunted down all but one of them, and he is sure the last werewolf is currently inhabiting the body of one of the people who are scheduled to go the Blue Wolf Castle. Laurent arranges things for Salamon to join the party to visit the castle, so they can hunt down the last werewolf together. And kill it with a silver bullet.

I raised an eyebrow. I wasn't sure what to expect from this.

When the party arrives at the Blue Wolf Castle (in June 1970), the story greatly mirrors the events seen in the previous book, like this was an alternate universe retelling of it. Like in the Germany chapter, the keys to the castle are stolen early on and everybody gets locked up in the castle. Both stories feature a professor who seeks the Spear of Longinus. People get shot down by a crossbow while trying to dig out of the secret hallway. Bodies disappear. The same locked room situation is mirrored completely from the previous chapter; the Blue Wolf Castle and the Silver Wolf Castle are twin castles and in both castles a double locked room murder is commited in the cellar, with the murderer leaving a decapitated body (and the head neatly placed on a wine table). And near the end of the story, a walking suit of armor is quite succesful in killing off any survivors.

There was also some new stuff though. France was a lot... bloodier than Germany, with more decapitations, de-handifications, de-legifications and stuff. There was a lot of chopping involved here. Interesting is the locked room murder on a woman, who is seemingly decapitated in mere seconds as soon as the doctor had closed the door on her. Or the locked room murder in the prison cell, where a body was lying as if trying to crawl towards the door. The crawling was probably kinda hard though, because his limbs were on the other side of the locked door. And unlike in Germany, the castle lord was indeed at home this time, as was his son (who wears a creepy mask all the time because of a skin-disease).

Oh, and don't forget about the mystical Nazi-Werewolf-Astral-Body-thing who can possess dead bodies! How much that adds to the fun!

Yeah, I wasn't too keen on that plot point. Seriously, Nazi-Werewolves?

But France was mostly something like an alternate universe of the events that happened in Germany. Like the previous book, it's quite exciting with all the people dying in locked rooms, following every step of every person using the map of the castle (eight pages!), the themes and stuff, but it was also a bit tedious to go through the events again. The same locked room is used in both castles and there are many parallels in the characters that are in both castles during the events. I understand that's the point behind it all, the castles being twin castles and it probably all tying up to one grand trick and all, but that doesn't make the read less tedious. Luckily, the next book should cover the arrival of great detective Nikaido Ranko who will solve this grand case! Well, at least, she makes a beginning, I guess, as I can't see her solving everything in the third book in a series of four. That would be a bit silly.

Original Japanese title(s): 二階堂黎人 『人狼城の恐怖 第二部=フランス編』

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