「君という光」 （Garnet Crow）
I like watching the jellyfish floating on the waves
Like I am always thinking of a world faraway
"A Light Called You" (Garnet Crow)
Man, I love these covers. The previous book had the same kind of cover, with blue and yellow, but they look really great.
the Gymnasium Murder some months earlier. Tenma, who lives illegally on school grounds, agrees to solve the alibi problem (in exchange for a new AC unit in his room) in Aosaki Yuugo's Suizokukan no Satsujin ("The Aquarium Murder", 2013).
Aosaki Yuugo's 2012 debut novel, Taiikukan no Satsujin ("The Gymnasium Murder") was a fantastic, Ellery Queen-inspired impossible murder mystery. The book even featured an alternative English title, The Black Umbrella Mystery, which invoked that Queen spirit too. Suizokukan no Satsujin continues in that spirit and likewise features an extra English title: The Yellow Mop Mystery and yes, a mop will turn out to be very important to the plot.
Taiikukan no Satsujin was one of my favorite read mysteries in 2015, because it was a great fusion between a young, high school student cast (including light, funny banter) and an extremely intricate mystery plot that was anything but juvenile. The way it used Queen-like logic-based reasoning to solve a mechanical locked room mystery was amazing, and while the trick itself was not surprising, the way otaku-detective Tenma arrived at the solution was. So I had high expectations of its sequel.
But I have to say I am not as positive about Suizokukan no Satsujin. The biggest problem is its enormous pool of suspects (eleven persons). A lot of the investigation is focused on the alibi of all eleven suspects, and by that I mean you need to keep in mind the exact movements of all these suspects up to the minute! It is utterly unbelievable that on any common workday, people would remember their movements up to the minute ("I was in the office until 09:57, had a talk with X in the hallway until 10:03, then had a coffee at 10:05, etc."). If it's like in Ayukawa Tetsuya's Kuroi Trunk, where there was an investigation into one specific person's alibi (using a train), okay, this approach can be both believable and viable, but not for eleven persons moving around in an aquarium. It's just too much, and after a while the reader loses interest with all the specific time-stamps. The large number of suspects reminds a bit of Arisugawa Alice's debut novel, Gekkou Game, which suffered too from a bit too many homogeneous suspects.
Like any proper Queen-inspired mystery novel, Suizokukan no Satsujin focuses very much on physical clues (objects) and their use. Deductions are made by looking at the state of an object, and imagining what actions, or knowledge, could have resulted in that state, and said deductions lead to new insights, which again bring new light to other objects/circumstances, etc. (see also this post on clues). Like the alternative English title suggest, a mop left near the shark tank proves to be of importance in this story, and while I admit that the final solution revealed is quite impressive on a technical level, I'll also admit that it didn't do as much to me as I had expected. Maybe I had already been exhausted by the constant alibi-checking of all those suspects. Halfway in the book, Tenma already reveals something of importance, and I thought that was much more exciting than the actual conclusion of the story. But I'll say that at a technical, plot level, this book is really well done. I just didn't feel as invested in this story as with Aosaki's debut novel.
Oh, and like with the previous novel, this book has something extra to offer if you know your manga and anime. Protagonist Tenma is a huge otaku, and he drops references left and right. These can be very subtle, and I only managed to catch a couple of them (I am especially bad with more recent anime), but man, it'd be difficult to do Translator's Notes for this book! I myself am proud I caught the Maison Ikkoku one (Maison Ikkoku is awesome).
Overall, Suizokukan no Satsujin is a well-constructed mystery novel, but it's also a novel where "less is more" applies. I think I'd really have enjoyed this novel better if it had been less detailed. Now it's just overwhelming and after a while, you just stop caring where X was at 09:56 and at 10:14. But now, I can only recommend this book with "Yes, but...".
Original Japanese title(s): 青崎有吾 『水族館の殺人』