Thursday, July 2, 2015

White Reflection

 あなたがくれた勇気(つばさ)を この胸に広げて… 
「White Reflection」 (Two-Mix)

I flap my wings and shake off my sadness and pain
In my heart I spread the wings of courage you have given me...
"White Reflection" (Two-Mix)

Hm, the last books reviewed on the blog are all from the same publisher. And I wrote these three reviews all on the same day.

Matt Cobb is one of the vice-presidents of a television network (simply called The Network) and part of Special Projects: the department responsible for handling troublesome cases that 'normal' departments like Public Relations and Security can't handle. In short, Cobb is The Network's own little single-man A-Team. This time, Cobb joins the negotiation team of The Network with millionaire Gabby Drost, who wants to buy the television network. Anonymous letters suggest that Drost is not a sane man and that it is unwise to do business with him: Cobb is to investigate the case and see if The Network is in any danger. The negotations are held in Drost's mansion, which for convencience's sake is inconveniently located on a mountain which according the Laws of Mystery, is of course visited by a snow storm, cutting the mansion off from the outside world during the negotations. The first night ends rather uneventful (relatively), but the morning brings death: the millionaire host's body is found outside on the rocks, with a field of virgin snow between the mansion and the body. How did the murderer escape from the crime scene without leaving footprints, that is the main question in William L. DeAndrea Killed on the Rocks (1990).

I don't look for them especially, but I'm pretty sure that every year, I read at least one detective story with the no-footprints-in-the-snow scenario. Not that I mind, far from it, but it does show that it is a very popular theme among impossible crime writers and that also means that there's a lot of competition in terms of solutions. The moment you publish a story with an often used trope, you're not just challenging the reader, but also all those who tackled the problem before you, and after you.

Killed on the Rocks' take on the familiar problem is not exceptionally inspiring though. It seems to me that the solution seems rather obvious... I don't mean that in a 'hah, look at how smart I am' way of speaking, but more in the sense of 'but surely that is about the first thing you think, so it has to be a fake solution!'. I genuinely had the final solution as my very first thought when confronted with the crime scene, figuring that would be the most easy and obvious way of pulling of the trick (i.e. if I was a murderer who would have wanted to create such a crime scene, I would have done it like that). Then again, I have read a lot of stories that do a similar thing, so maybe Killed on the Rocks just had the bad luck of having me as a reader. Ignoring the lack of surprise for me, the mystery is a fairly clued and adequately constructed one.

But Killed on the Rocks isn't just the no-footprints-in-the-snow, and there's enough in the book to entertain the reader. I for one quite enjoyed the story overall, because... well: 1) isolated mansion, 2) closed circle, 3) impossible crime, 4) people starting to suspect each other are usually elements that make me a happy little reader and it was no different here. If I had mostly been reading English novels, I might have noted on the fact that it is quite interesting that these classic tropes were still used in 1990, but then again, I am spoiled with the boom in New Orthodox detective novels that started just a few years before in Japan. But certainly doesn't make Killed on the Rocks any less fun and I can recommended this to all readers.

Oh wait, this was the first time I read a Matt Cobb novel, but this is a fairly late one in the series and it actually spoils the identity of the murderers of some of the earlier novels (or they were making really detailed references to an event not featured in the novels, but I don't think so...). I'll probably forget about these details in some weeks or so, knowing my memory, but some people might wanna read the books in order to make sure they don't get spoiled. But as a standalone mystery novel, Killed on the Rocks is great.

This was my second DeAndrea novel and I enjoyed it greatly, even if the impossible crime was kinda easy to solve. The character of Matt Cobb and his work is quite interesting too, so I'll probably try some more books in the series (and hope I'll have forgotten the spoilers by then).


  1. I'm glad you're enjoying DeAndrea. He was sort of my gateway to discovering that not practically everything published after 1950 was complete garbage.

    1. Well, since I got one of those newfangled e-book reader thingies, it's definitely been easier to find his books, and I can see why people are so enthusiastic about him. Any suggestions?

    2. DeAndrea's only collection of short stories, Murder - All Kinds, is a gem and further I would recommend anything with DeAndrea's name on it. Haven't read it all myself, but I liked what I read.