On the 15 (and a half) Types of Impossible Crimes

There’s been no end to the ingenuity of the impossible crime genre. When you see murders committed inside of perfectly sealed rooms, and stabbings in virgin snow where the killers leave no footprints, you’re only taking the daintiest of baby-steps down the iceberg of magic murders. Take a few steps further and you’ll find yourself barreling into the realms of animated murderous snowmen, disappearing hotel rooms, witchery, teleportation, telekinesis, premonitory dreams, apparitions, flying men, transmogrification, impossible golf shots, men dying from falls when there’s no elevated surfaces for miles, time travel, people running through solid brick walls, and even the apparently magical disintegration of a man in front of witnesses. All of which, mind you, must be explained through perfectly human means without reliance on far-fetched science-fiction technology or preternatural agency — or, if sci-fi tech and ghostly happenings are commonplace in your world, their rules must still be adhered (and are usually exploited to establish the impossibility…). A whole world of man-made miraculous murders that would have the skeptics of our world taken aback! When you imagine the impossible crime problem, you imagine a scenario which absolutely cannot be taken at face value, and which the characters in the story have to battle with the reality of, whether it’s through disproving the supernatural or an ostensible suicide. There’s an impossible crime tale for damn near every insane scenario under the sun a person could think of.

…Or so I said in On a Defense of the Impossible Alibi Problem. A perfectly good introductory paragraph, wasted.

The impossible crime tale seems to be a favorite of people looking to create taxonomies. From solutions to situations, the impossible crime sub-genre more than any other seems to invite people to create lists trying to chronicle every little manner of plot, style, and form that exists. You might argue that this is a testament to the sheer formulaicity of the impossible crime story, or a testament to the magnetism of its versatility…

Just like I’ve done before in attempting to produce a list of 50 solutions to the 3 principle impossible crime genres, I will here be attempting to produce a list of all every conceivable manner of impossible crime situation — within reason. I will only be adding to this list if I feel like the entry is all of (a.) something that meaningfully alters the presentation of the impossible crime, (b.) something that meaningfully alters the potential explanations to the crime, and (c.) categorically non-specific so to be applicable to a suitable variety of stories. This is primarily because the minutiae distinguishing two locked-room mystery situations is a lot less significant than the minutiae distinguishing two solution types — this also means I can provide less “theoretical” entries than I could before.

Over at The Invisible Event, Jim Noy has actually covered a lot of our bases on his own post a few years back on the same topic. My intention here is not to contradict him, but rather to supplement his list with a few potential entries I feel worth pointing out. I will be covering a lot of re-tread ground here, so in the interest of keeping Jim’s contributions and my own separated I’ll simply be listing Jim’s entries first in one set and then mine at the end. I’ll be supplementing each category with a paragraph or two explaining the concept too — just so that this is my post, and nobody else’s!

Without further ado…

1.) The Locked-Room Mystery

The grandfather of mystery fiction and the perennial favorite of all impossible crime aficionados, locked-room mysteries scarce warrant an introduction. You have a murder committed within a room locked, sealed, and barred from the inside so that every entry is blocked-off. The only key to the room is inside of the victim’s pocket, so the killer must be still inside of the room… and yet they are not! The implication is that the killer has someone walked through the walls or vanished into thin-air…

This is the most popular form of impossible crime, and examples are a-plenty. Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue”, popularly (and debatably) considered the original detective story, Clayton Rawson’s Death from a Top Hat, and John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man (also known as The Three Coffins) all features killers who seem to vanish into mid-air within a locked room…

1.5.) The Judas Window Locked-Room

Not, perhaps, a separate situation altogether, but a prominent enough sub-sub-subgenre to warrant mention, this is one of those “Doylist Impossibilities” I invoke in On a Defense of the Impossible Alibi Problem. The situation is entirely the same as a traditional locked-room mystery, with one caveat: there is a single suspect locked inside of the room with the victim, so that it appears entirely impossible for them to be innocent of the murder! The situation is only impossible if you, as the reader accept the condition that this person is innocent and the murder must’ve been committed by an external agency.

I’ve named this one after the most prominent example, John Dickson Carr’s The Judas Window. This situation is a favorite of many cases of the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney video game series in which you defend clients falsely accused of murder — more often than not, this accusation comes as a direct consequence of the defendant being locked in the same room or sealed in the same general location as the victim. Edward D. Hoch, the “Master of Short Stories”, also produced more than a handful of these, such as “A Shower of Daggers”.

2.) Footprints in the Snow

…or sand, or dust. These crimes involve a man found murdered in a vast expanse of snow! The killer definitely murdered the man from close-quarters, and the man was murdered after the snow had finished falling… so how could the killer have committed this murder without leaving his footprints in the snow!? A killer who can somehow float over the snow…

John Dickson Carr dealt with the problem most notably in The White Priory Murders, and his French-speaking disciple Paul Halter also wrote these in, among others, The Lord of Misrule and The Gold Watch. Christianna Brand produced one of these in Suddenly at his Residence using dust, and Arthur Porges’s “No Killer has Wings” and Hal White’s “Murder at an Island Mansion” are two examples of this problem on sandy beaches.

3.) Psychological Impossibility

We’re starting to get into the abstract. A man’s death is caused not by direct murder, but instead by a behavior that is so absurdly unbelievable it defies every known principle of human psychology! The most famous example of this is Father Ronald Knox’s “Solved by Inspection”, which involves a man who starves to death in a room surrounded entirely by safe-to-eat food that he could’ve eaten at any moment.

4.) Impossible Physical Feats

Humans are constantly displaying their infinite capacity for improvement. Records are always being broken, and the human condition forever expanding. But in these stories, these feats of athleticism swerve from the superhuman straight into the supernatural. A man cannot run from California to New York in a matter of hours, neither can a man leap from the top of the Eifel Tower and land with not a single scratch on his body…

The Stingaree Murders by W. Shepard Pleasants features a knife that’s hammered into the wooden boards of a boat so tightly that not even Mike Tyson himself could remove it without causing significant damage and creating noise that would assuredly not go unnoticed — naturally, the knife is removed. Death in the Dark by Stacey Bishop tells of a baffling murder in which a killer is somehow able to make an eagle-eyed shot at his victim in pitch-black darkness! Impossible Bliss by Lee Sheldon involves a nearly-impossible perfect golf shot from a nearly-impossible angle that not even the most seasoned of pros could achieve!

5.) Killer Rooms

Without fail, every single time a man sleeps in the bed in room 405 of the Dickson Inn, he never wakes up… and is found the next morning, having died of heart failure at precisely midnight… The killer room involves spaces that seem to have the uncanny ability to indiscriminately cause death without human intervention. Even more baffling, these situations may have bizarre, hyper-specific conditions under which these deaths occur…

Impossible-crime-oriented BBC drama Jonathan Creek has an episode episode titled “Mother Redcap” involving an inn where bizarre deaths seem to constantly occur within the same room, at the same time… Max Afford’s “The Vanishing Trick” involves a “kinda haunted” room that constantly swallows up servants and sends them to God-knows-where…

6.) Invisible Murderer

A murder who is mysterious able to pass under your nose without detection, strangle a woman in plain view of a crowd of hundreds without being seen, and murder in rooms guarded on all sides. This impossible problem involves the situation of a murderer who is able to defy detection even when the situation dictates that they would be seen.

Such an impossible crime makes up the principle murder of Christianna Brand’s Death of Jezebel, in which a murder is committed in front of a crowd of hundreds of spectators to a medieval pageant at top of a tower, the only viable entrance to which was also in view of the audience. Derek Smith’s Whistle up the Devil features a murder in a jail cell whose sole door was observed by the narrator and a reliable witness at all times the murderer must’ve walked through the door, and yet neither of them saw any such killer…

7.) Vanishing

Whether person or object, the problem of an impossible vanishing involves something disappear when there’s no reasonable way for this to occur. While it can often overlap with locked-room mysteries, footprint mysteries, or invisible criminals, this class of impossible crime also accounts for people vanishing in front of witnesses like a magician, or thefts of objects while in another character’s hands…

Roger Ormerod’s More Dead than Alive features a world-renowned magician who seems to disappear impossibly from his locked-and-sealed laboratory. Edward D. Hoch wrote multiple stories featuring a Great Thief-cum-Detective Nick Velvet, including the impossible caper “The Theft of the White Queen’s Menu” in which three impossible thefts occur: the theft of a roomful of furniture in a matter of just a few minutes, the theft of a roulette wheel from a crowded casino and yet nobody saw it leave, and the theft of rival thief The White Queen’s menu while it is held in her hands! Quite spectacularly, Paul Halter’s story “The Celestial Thief” involves the disappearance of all of the stars in the night sky as an astronomer is watching them from his telescope!

8.) Materialization

Diametrically opposite the previous category, impossible materializations involve the production of an object or person where it very well could never have been! A man manifesting within a sealed room, a plane appearing in the sky when it had nowhere from which it could’ve come, and poison appearing within a test-tasted dish…

James Yaffe’s “The Case of the Emperor’s Mushrooms” involves the murder of Emperor Claudius of Rome, who dies to a plate of poisoned mushrooms — quite mysteriously however, the royal food-tester had eaten a portion of the food without dying, and so the poison must have appeared while in the emperor’s hands…

9.) Prophecy, Clairvoyance, and Predictions

The fortune-teller tells you that you will die on June 4th, 2022 at 5:25 PM… and, lo and behold, you find yourself dead at the appointed time! People coming into possession of knowledge which they should never have been able to learn makes up this class of impossible problem.

There are, in fact, two real-world examples. “The Greenbrier Ghost” of West Virginia is a story about a woman who divines knowledge of the cause of her daughter’s death when the young women’s death was named natural. “The Horse Room” involves a group of women named the Blondie Gang who were robbing casinos blind in the 1940s, and the way they managed to cheat at horse-race betting in a room where no information could travel in or out… John Dickson Carr’s The Reader is Warned also involves a psychic predicting a murder, down to the very minute it’ll occur.

10.) Ghost, Witches, and Miscellaneous Supernatural Jiggerypokery

This, ultimately, is a “miscellaneous” category for all impossible crimes that appear to be ghosts, magic, or the supernatural at work but don’t fit into the other categories for being too specific. The appearance of a floating ghost in a room, a woman casting a spell that appears to come true, or the commission of a seance all fall into this category.

John Sladek’s Black Aura has a man suspended in mid-air and walking without any support in front of witnesses, and Hake Talbot’s Rim of the Pit features floating men, ghosts, seances, and nearly every supernatural occurrence you could hope to dream of. “Miracle on Christmas Eve” by Szu-Yen Lin involves the impossible delivery of gifts by a man who could only be Santa Claus himself… Also, suffice it to say, Scooby-Doo anyone?

11.) Impossible Technology

Mind-reading devices, hover-boards, and teleportation machines don’t exist… or do they? The impossible technology problem involves story where a piece of technology is presented as entirely genuine, but there is no scientific way for such a machine to exist. How could this bizarre feat be faked and manufactured?

In The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve of Ryuunosuke Naruhodou‘s third case, Twisted Karma and his Last Bow, defense attorney Ryuunosuke Naruhodou is commissioned to defend a scientist of murder. This scientist constructed a teleportation machine that’s capable of de-materializing a man in one place, and rematerializing him in another spontaneously. He was demonstrating the machine at a science exhibition when the device malfunctioned, causing the man to appear above a glass tower, suspended freely in the middle of the air! The man would then crash through the roof of the tower where it would be impossible to approach him… and yet, when the police arrive, the man was stabbed to death. Because of the location of the body, it’s only possible for your defendant to have stabbed the man before his teleportation! And so, in order to prove his innocence, you also have to prove how the entirely impossible feat of teleportation could’ve been faked in front of a massive audience…

12.) The Inverted Howdunit

One of two Impossible Alibi problems I described, this Doylist impossibility tiptoes the line between the inverted mystery (mysteries in which we know of the killer and their plot ahead of time) and the impossible crime. In the Inverted Howdunit, we are privy to the identity of the killer very early — however, unlike most such stories, in the Inverted Howdunit we only know the killer’s identity, but we do not know how they committed the crime… or how they managed to construct an airtight alibi! This impossibility hinges on knowing the identity of the killer, but it appearing nonetheless impossible for them to be guilty.

Roger Ormerod’s Time to Kill features a murder by an ex-convict — however, the ex-convict never once left the narrator’s sight during the period during which the murder must’ve taken place! In Detective Conan Volume 2, the case “Mysterious Shadow Murder Case” involves a man who committed murder while unmistakably in another country at the time… Agatha Christie’s “A Christmas Tragedy” has Miss Jane Marple describe a murder she once solved in which she knew the killer’s identity… and yet the killer had an impenetrable alibi!

13.) Suspect X

Nine people are trapped together on an island. One person wanders off, leaving the remaining eight people together in the dining room. The ninth person is soon heard screaming, and when the eight people arrive…. they find him dead! And yet, this is impossible… he hadn’t committed suicide, everybody was watching each other at all times..! Is it possible that an Xth suspect was on the island, killing them from the shadows?

Suspect X is the second “impossible alibi” problem I described in my post on the topic. This impossibility essentially dictates that, in a closed-circle mystery, the crime is only possible if you assume the presence of one extra person whose existence in the closed-circle is itself also impossible. The solution could involve explaining the presence of this extra person, or ways for the killer, who is among the original cast, to commit murder despite being under constant surveillance.

Such problems appear in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, in which the entirety of the cast is dead, and all apparently murdered, while isolated together on an island; NisioisiN’s Zaregoto – The Kubikiri Cycle, in which the narrator’s friend’s computer is destroyed while every living member of the cast is together in the dining room; Derek Smith’s Come to Paddington Fair, in which the victim is shot by a bullet from a prop gun which was at one moment loaded with blanks but later loaded with live ammunition, even though every member of the cast is incapable (by alibi and testimony) of tampering with the gun.

14.) Biological Impossibilities and Illogical Causes of Death

Biological impossibilities are any mysteries in which the victim faces a death which utterly defies human physiology and logic. Initially, I was going to have a separate category for “impossible falls”, those stories in which the victim falls to their death despite the lack of an elevated surface within any reasonable distance, but I decided to consolidate those two categories hear under the blanket of “Illogical Death” since I felt like they were conceptually similar enough.

Robert Randisi’s (awful) “The Hook” involves the serial killings of women who have had all their organs removed quite impossibly, despite the presence of only a very small incision through which removing the organs so cleanly would be impossible. Both Paul Halter’s “Jacob’s Ladder” and Mack Reynolds’s The Case of the Little Green Men involve a man falling to his death despite there being no elevated surfaces nearby. John Dickson Carr’s Gur Erq Jvqbj Zheqref and the first case of The Great Ace Attorney both involve a death by curare when ingested — curare can only cause death when it enters the bloodstream, and is harmless when imbibed. Paul Halter also wrote “The Robber’s Grave” in which a patch of grass is unusually unable to grow no matter what… Soji Shimada’s “The Executive Who Lost His Mind” involves someone who was murdered only minutes ago, but their corpse suggests that they’ve been dead for years…

15.) The Lonely Boat

A boat floats in the middle of a lake with a lone fisherman in it. The fisherman suddenly keels over and dies, and when the boat is recovered he’s found stabbed to death! Such a death is impossible — it would’ve been impossible for anyone to approach the boat without attracting attention or getting wet, so how much a man wind up murdered while isolated in the middle of a body of water?

I was initially unsure about whether or not to include this one, as most variations on this problem strongly overlap with the “invisible murderer”. However, I believe this problem meets all three of my criteria in theoretically creating a significant distinction in how the crime is presented and resolved…

Such a problem occurs in Joseph Commings’s “The Spectre of the Lake”, in which two men are shot from close-range in the middle of a lake, and both of John Dickson Carr’s “The Wrong Problem” and W. Shepard Pleasants’s The Stingaree Murders, in which a man is stabbed in an isolated boat.

On The Greenbrier Ghost in a Murder Trial, A “True” Impossibility From my Home (Part 1/2 – The Situation)

A woman who wasn’t pregnant was named dead due to complications during childbirth. A whole month after the young woman’s death, her ghost appears to her mother and tells her the true cause of her death: her husband shattered her neck after a dispute over that night’s dinner. When the authorities are informed, they dig up the girl’s body and indeed they find new evidence of foul-play… from a corpse which the woman was never there to see… so how did she know about the cause of death?

This story is a genuine part of West Virginia folklore: our state is the only in all of America to officially claim to have settled a murder trial on the testimony provided by a ghost! Many might be to quick to question, from the telling, the validity of this tale. However I was struck, while reading it, that this story has been kicking around in my head as a bit of a Talbot/Halter-esque impossible crime, and I immediately conceived of a very simple explanation that makes all of the odd details fit into place — showing me that here is still a very human explanation at the heart of this problem even if you take the story at 100% face value.

I invite you to test your wits against the tale of the Greenbrier Ghost, relayed here in as clinical and unembellished terms as is humanly possible.

In 1987 Elva Zona Heaster Shue of Greenbrier County, West Virginia, was found dead in her home. Her body was discovered on January 23 at the foot of the main staircase of her and her husband’s home. She was discovered by a young boy sent to the house by her husband Mr. Shue to perform some errands. The boy went to tell his mother, who subsequently summoned the local doctor and coroner George W. Knapp, who didn’t arrive for nearly an hour.

When Dr. Knapp had arrived, Shue had already taken his wife’s body upstairs, cleaned her and dressed her (this was noted as odd behavior, as it was frequently considered the task of the woman of the community). He had made her up in a high-necked dress. Dr. Knapp attempted to perform an examination, but, noting the widow’s grief, made his examination very brief. However, when the doctor attempted to investigate under the collar of the high-necked dress, Mr. Shue grew angry and vehemently refused to allow the doctor to continue. The doctor gave his professional opinion that the cause of death was complications during childbirth. He, however, offhandedly noted bruising about the neck…….

Childbirth was accepted as the official cause of death, however nobody seemed to recall whether Zona was pregnant or not, and the child could not be located… Zona’s mother, Mary Jane Heaster, was informed of the death, and the body was subsequently buried the very next day. During the burial, Shue had refused to allow anyone to approach the open coffin until he had left Zona with her “favorite scarf” tied about her neck and placing a pillow into the casket to “help her rest better”.

A full month later, according to Mary Jane Heaster, the spirit of her daughter Zona manifested before her, and claimed that her husband Shue was abusive, and broke her neck when he was unhappy with dinner. To emphasize this point, the ghost “turned its head 180 degrees”. Mary Jane Heaster reported to the police that her daughter was strangled and her neck broken by Shue. The police (already suitably suspicious of Shue) humored the ghost story and dug up the body of Zona and performed an immediate exhumation, finding the true cause of death to be strangulation. The discovery was made that the neck was broken and the windpipe mashed. On the throat were the marks of fingers indicating that she had been choked. The neck was dislocated between the first and second vertebrae. The ligaments were torn and ruptured. The windpipe had been crushed at a point in front of the neck.

In other words… the story Mary Jane supposedly heard from the ghost of her daughter was entirely true. Something which nobody knew came to become Mary Jane’s knowledge, something she could’ve never seen: her daughter had been strangled to death.

The case brought to court and, indeed, under the weight of the story, Mr. Shue confessed and ended up receiving an unambiguous conviction from the jury — resting entirely, solely, on the testimony provided by the ghost of the victim.

I welcome any and all theories to explain the seemingly supernatural acquisition of Mary Jane’s knowledge of her daughter’s death. I happen to know a theory many people will likely jump to, but which I actually disagree with on a fundamental level (thanks to evidence provided in the story). Nonetheless, I’d love to hear the variety of solutions our impossible crime-loving community can conceive of to this problem — before too long, I think I’ll post my own theory to the problem which, in my eyes, perfectly explains away every little contradiction of facts…

Detective Conan Volume 10 (1995-1996) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the tenth in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

Volumes 6 to 8 were a breath of fresh air for a series that started off so mediocrely. Although Volume 9 stumbled a bit, with a very uneven assortment of stories, it evened up by the end with a pretty good alibi trick inside of a decent, if underrealized, mystery tale. The average quality of the stories has improved considerably since the first few volumes, and I now found myself reading Detective Conan again casually, instead of beating out volumes “waiting for it to get good”. Even a mediocre story from this stage of the game is considerably better than a good story from the first three volumes…

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

Volume 8 opens with Casebook 25 – Diplomat Murder Case (Chapters 2-6), in which a woman summons Richard to her husband’s study to help with a background check on her future daughter-in-law, who is “too perfect to be good”! However, when the gang arrives at the scene, they find that the husband, a diplomat, has been killed by a poison prick-pin! Worse yet, the room was locked-and-sealed, and when the murder must’ve occurred, not only did everyone have an alibi but one person, but the only keys to the door were either in the victim’s pocket or the wife’s pocket (who was away from the house).

While struggling to piece together the mystery, Conan struggles with a fierce fever. Worse yet, a new detective named Harley Hatwell has shown up and named himself Jimmy’s rival — and he’s about to walk into the killer’s trap and blow the whole case!

This one’s fun, I really like the introduction of Harley as having him bounce ideas off of Conan and also butt heads with him makes the reasoning/deduction segments of Detective Conan more engaging and fun. The mystery itself is a bit minor for a feature-length story, though, as a lot of the story was basically dedicated to the locked-room mystery’s false solution as well as setting up the final confrontation between Jimmy (Conan) and Harley.

The locked-room mystery is fairly basic. The solution is a decent reworking of an age-old trick. However, the way it’s applied here is a lot more elegant on account of the way the presentation of the locked-room is handled. It makes the killer’s actions more natural so that the age-old solution doesn’t quite jump out at you like it would if this story played it entirely like those other stories tend to… This reworking of this particular solution type also lends itself to some fun cluing.

This is a decent story. The introduction of Harley is significant, and the denouement is a very good scene, but the mystery plot is just mediocre.

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

Immediately after this is Casebook 26 – Library Employee Murder Case (Chapters 6-8), the first story in the series to share chapters with another story, as chapter 6, the ending of Diplomat Murder Case is a direct tie-in to the beginning of this case (not that it matters to the plot).

Newly reinvigorated with the knowledge of how to return to his adult body, Jimmy accompanies the Junior Detective League on one last case where they investigate the disappearance and presumed murder of an employee… While there, they hunt for the secrets of the owner of the library while their life is in danger!

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

Okay, fine! I really liked this Junior Detective League story! There’s a fairly-clued, if obvious, “Purloined Letter”-esque trick with the hiding place of a particular item in the story. The real puncher here, though, is the hiding place of the body, which is just mildly clever on its own, but is further elevated by a really clever piece of mathematic misdirection.

Not an astoundingly brilliant one, but I really enjoyed this one.

The volume ends on Casebook 27 – Medical Professors Murder Case (Volumes 10-11, Chapters 9-1), in which the Moores are stranded outside on a ski trip after Richard loses their lodge keys. The family is, fortunately, saved by a band of medical professors who invite them to spend the night at their private lodge. However, while there, the head professor under which the others study is murdered violently, and it appears he’s left behind a message identifying his killer…!

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

This one is ingenious in all of the ways that dying messages tend to be, but also absurd in all of the ways that dying messages tend to be. The message involves intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and language, and also demands you be reading the story in Japanese or else you just won’t get any of the clues that actually reveal the solution to you in the character names…

I think this one is wildly ingenious, but for some reason I just didn’t find it very satisfying. I give it points for cleverness, but I didn’t actually really enjoy this one.

Volume 10 is much more even than Volume 9! While it never quite reaches the highs of any of the volumes before it, there are no standout bad stories in this volume! This is all-around a good, balanced collection of Detective Conan tales.

  1. ————THE GOOD————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  3. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  4. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  5. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  6. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  7. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  8. Library Employee Murder Case (CB#26 V10 C6-8)
  9. ————THE DECENT————
    Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  10. Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  11. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  12. Diplomat Murder Case (CB#25 V10 C 2-6)
  13. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  14. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  15. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  16. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  17. Medical Professor (CB#27 V10-11 C9-1)
  18. ————THE BAD————
    Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  19. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  20. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  21. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  22. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  23. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  24. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  25. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  26. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  27. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)

Detective Conan Volume 9 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the ninth in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

If you’ve been reading this series of reviews from the beginning, you’ll probably be struck by the fact that there has been a massive uptick in quality. For the first few volumes, I was giving metered, measured, and reserved praise to stories that were “good… for this point in the stories”. Since then, I’ve started throwing out words like “brilliant” and “classic” and making lofty comparisons to Brand and Christie. Volumes 6 to 8 have all been consistently on-point with only the occasional stinker among them. We can only hope that this upward trend will continue in Volume 9…

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

…which opens with Casebook 22 – Ayumi Yoshida Kidnapping Case (Chapters 1-3), my least favorite story in the series so far. The Junior Detective League are out playing hide-and-seek when Ayumi gets into the trunk of a suspected kidnapper-and-serial-child-murderer! The kids chase her down on Conan’s rocket skateboard as she describes sounds to them that give them clues to her location.

It’s a three chapter long chase scene with a joke ending that isn’t very funny. The descriptions of the locations are pretty obvious as to what they’re vaguely supposed to be. Worst story so far, there’s basically nothing of interest here worth reading for any reason. I really do not care for these Junior Detective League stories one bit. Hopefully there’s a really good one involving a library to look forward to in the next volume!

Casebook 23 – Kogoro Richard’s Class Reunion Murder Case has the Moores attending a reunion of Richard’s university judo club. Unlike many other clubs we will see in this series, there are no “two-year-old secret deaths we promised not to speak about!” In fact, the reunion goes pleasantly, with the members teasing Richard for his poor attendance, much banter ensues, and it’s clear the familial bonds of the Judo team are in tact even after 15 years!

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

After the team goes to the fireworks showing without Yumi Horikoshi, a member of the team, they return to find her in her room dead from a gunshot wound to the forehead. Based on the rigor mortis, she had to have died when everyone was together in the ping pong room earlier and everyone had an alibi…

I know this one is apparently a favorite of a lot of people’s, but I’m sorry to say I really didn’t think it was too great. Seeing Richard momentarily mature into a suitable detective to solve the murder was really fun, and the moment-to-moment detection as well as the cluing were all very well-done.

However, the problem is just a fundamental one with this kind of story. As I mentioned in my post on “impossible alibi problems”, there are two ways to construct a problem like this. One is “we know who the killer is, but we have no idea how they established an airtight alibi”, which features in Mysterious Shadow Case (Volume 2 Chapters 1-3). The other is “a murder committed when everyone has an alibi” — this story — and this premise only has arguably three or four total basic solution types. Unfortunately, the story also quickly reveals which of these types has to be at play, and the second that happens it basically just comes down to the minutiae of applying it, which in this case I really did not care much for, being a unique facepaint on what’s still a very old type of biological trick.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s, technically, a perfectly-constructed detective story, with cleverly-placed clues hinting at the true solution, including a very neat piece of Japanese folklore, and the solution’s unique application of an old premise lends itself to very clever cluing. This type of perfect composition is a mark many other Detective Conan tales miss, but, gun to my head, I’d prefer a story with flawed construction but brilliant heights and shocks like Night Baron Murder Case (Volume 8 Chapters 2-7). Nonetheless, this story just gets marks for being well-realized, even if I don’t believe it’ll bowl many people over with ingenuity or surprise.

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

The volume, being the first in a while to feature three stories, ends on Casebook 24 – Wealthy Daughter Murder Case (Volumes 9-10, Chapters 7-1). At a party hosted for a wealthy daughter to select her desired suitor for marriage, of which many of the guests are from the host’s old yachting club, many people’s car tires are slashed, scaring people into fleeing the party. The few who remain intend to finish the party and walk away with a new bride…

However, the festivities are finally disrupted when the body of one of the suits is found drowned in the fountain outside of the house! With the debutant missing from her own party and under suspicion when Rachel is the victim of a murder attempt in which her head is forced under the water in a bathroom sink, Conan is underway to find this would-be serial killer…!

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

I mentioned preferring brilliant heights with flawed construction, right?

There’s a very clever alibi trick at play here that, similar to Moonlight Sonata Murder Case (Volume 7 Chapters 2-7), effectively relies on the fact that it could only work in the context of a serial killing and would not be nearly as effective in a one-off murder. Both that story and this one ultimately feel like a case of the first two murders merely being a means to one big misdirection in the final murder, and it’s an interesting plotting device that I found neat and effective.

However, construction-wise, this story is just as weird and messy as the aforementioned Night Baron Murder Case, for a lot of the same reasons (see my review of Volume 8). There’s a scene where an old lady at the scene of the crime compare’s Rachel’s appearance to that of a young woman who drowned to death a few years ago (like every non-Judo club in the Detective Conan universe). The scene is presented with considerable weight and importance, but this little detail of Rachel’s resemblance to the dead girl is neither paid off nor followed-up on at any point in the remainder of the story. Similarly to Night Baron this also feels like two stitched-together premises — a murder at a yacht club reunion, and a murder at a groom-selecting ball. This is ultimately and most importantly a murder at a yacht club reunion, and the entire set-up of this party being meant for the selection of a young woman’s husband is a detail that gets laid at the wayside and never called-upon for any meaningful reason.

Nonetheless, I think of this story highly. I think the alibi trick is clever enough to save this story, although I think it’s a step below Night Baron in sheer brilliance and ingenuity, even if the construction is equally bizarre.

This volume started out rough, but managed to find its footing near the end. Nothing here that I’d say is a classic of the series worth going out of your way to read, but Wealthy Daughter is a good read for signed-up fans, and most people think more highly of Richard’s Reunion than I do, so maybe you will too…?

Now that I’ve broken the 20 stories mark, I’m going to start arranging these stories more clearly based on rough quality! I’m worried the ranking is getting a bit messy and hard to read though, so let me know if this knew formatting decision is good or if I should abandon it and just let the ranking speak for itself.

  1. ————THE GOOD————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  3. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  4. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  5. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  6. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  7. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  8. ————THE DECENT————
    Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  9. Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  10. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  11. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  12. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  13. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  14. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  15. ————THE BAD————
    Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  16. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  17. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  18. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  19. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  20. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  21. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  22. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  23. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  24. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)

Detective Conan Volume 8 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the eight in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

Back-to-back Volumes 6 and 7 gave us some absolute stunners. From a brilliant inverted mystery at a fire festival, to a somber murder to the beat of a piano, to the shocking murder-by-swordfight of an art collector, Detective Conan has started to produce some genuinely great stories that fans of detective fiction would be doing themselves a disservice to ignore…

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

Volume 8 opens with Casebook 20 – The Night Baron Murder Case (Chapters 2-7), as the Moores attend a bizarre competition at a hotel. A person will dress up as the fictional phantom thief, Night Baron, and roam the hotel committing petty crimes. Whoever first discovers the identity of the masked man will be given free room and board at the hotel. However, as Conan investigates and finds out nearly everyone present is a respected computer programmer, he discovers that there’s another, secret prize in the competition: a virus named after the Night Baron character…

During their stay, Conan is thrown off of his balcony by the Night Baron! Now concerned about the true nature of this competition, Conan is on the hunt for the Night Baron… The Baron’s identity is quickly revealed when the character is too cast from a balcony, and lands on the spear of a statue, getting impaled and dying immediately. When the mask is revealed, the identity is revealed to be programmer Tokio Ebara… however, Conan is not convinced this is the real Baron. The Moores begin their search for the culprit of this murder and the true identity of the Night Baron…

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

And during their hunt, they find the victim’s room, locked and sealed from the inside, barring access…

I want to get this out of the way now, there is some beautiful cluing towards a brilliant murder trick in this story. In my opinion, in fact, this is the most brilliant piece of misdirection in the series so far. The locked-room mystery itself is minor and resolved immediately, but the locked-room itself is merely a form of misdirection that contributes to the greater solution — the true solution. It’s a brilliant mystery puzzle, so I wish I liked this story more…

The story, bizarrely, feels like two disparate premises stitched together. The murder at a gathering of computer programmers and the ne’er-do-wellery of a fictional Great Thief come to life are, individually, two fantastic premises, but stitching them together by naming a virus after the character makes the whole thing feel confused and muddled, and leads to neither idea really feeling like it gets sufficiently payoff come the end.

What makes this even more bizarre is that there are multiple instances of characters doing wildly suspicious things, and there’s… no explanation for it before or during the denouement. The suspicious activity is hand-waved over the course of what basically constitutes an epilogue, with multiple characters basically giving an apology that amounts to “hehe, whoops, we were so silly!” Very half-baked, artificial attempts to cast suspicion onto another character.

This also returns to the feature-length story trope of having a character make a weak dodge to attempt to deflect suspicion from the culprit, but inadvertently do the opposite and point big, blazing, neon arrows in the killer’s direction. It works here, though. Not from a misdirection standpoint, but just from a storytelling and character standpoint the attempt here actually adds a little to the story and gives Rachel a very compelling WWJD (What would Jimmy do) moment.

Anyway, the central trick here is brilliant and it elevates this story well beyond where it would’ve been with a lesser murder plot, being so loosely-plotted, frustratingly lazy and half-baked in places, and muddled. I’m almost certain this was once-upon-a-time a standard-length story, and it was extended when they realized they wanted it to be relevant to the series’s overarching plot for XYZ reasons… Only it would’ve been much better if it stayed that way. Still worth reading for the trick, but don’t make this your first Detective Conan you seek out.

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

The second and final story this volume is Casebook 21 – The Poisoned Bride Attempted Murder Case (Chapters 8-10), which has the Moores attending the wedding of a police commissioner’s daughter — who also, as it happens, turns out to be Conan’s persnickety former teacher. Before the ceremony can commence, however, the bride is non-fatally poisoned by a packet of sodium hydroxide left in her favorite drink, a can of lemon tea! A video camera that recorded the gang’s entire interaction in the dressing room became a central piece of evidence in the murder…

This one is very good! The alibi trick for the poisoning was very clever, if not entirely unique, turning on a principle that has fundamentally been used a few times in the series already. It’s a fairly distinct interpretation of the idea though, as it relies on a certain character’s assistance to operate under the restrictions of poison, and the visual clue that reveals everything is very neatly handled!

The motive is touching and fairly clued, and the ending is very sweet, even if it a bit on the side of rewarding people for doing bad things…

It’s hard to match peaks, but Volume 8 of Detective Conan makes a valiant effort with its two stories. Volume 8 is absolutely worth reading once you’re a signed-on fan of the series, especially for the brilliant trick buried in the otherwise messy Night Baron Murder Case

  1. Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  3. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  4. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  5. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  6. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  7. Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  8. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  9. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  10. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  11. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  12. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  13. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  14. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  15. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  16. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  17. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  18. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  19. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  20. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  21. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)

Detective Conan Volume 7 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the seventh in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

Volume 6 of Detective Conan was simply fantastic. The two absolute best stories we’ve seen so far featured in that volume, and while there was one pretty uninspiring story in the middle it didn’t spoil what I consider the first absolute must-get volume in the series… Now that we’ve reached this point in the Detective Conan franchise, standards are high! One can only hope that we keep getting more fantastic stories like we saw in the previous volume…

First up to bat in Volume 7’s two stories is Casebook 18 – The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case (Chapters 2-7), a six chapter feature-length, opening with a mysterious letter addressed to Richard Moore summoning him to Tsukikage (Moon Shadow) Island with the warning that the island will once again be cast in darkness… The sender? A man going by the name of Keiji Asoh…

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

At Tsukikage Island, asking about the identity of Keiji Asoh reveals that the man has long since passed away. It was 12 years ago, in fact, when world-renowned pianist Keiji Asoh went mad, killed his family, and proceeded to light his home on fire. While the wood of his house scorched and embers danced hungrily around him, lapping at his skin and threatening to devour him, Keiji Asoh calmly sat at his piano and played his favorite song, the Moonlight Sonata, up until the very moment he was engulfed in flame and passed away… Thirteen years later, the sounds of the Moonlight Sonata playing from the community center summoned witnesses to find the dead body of the Tsukikage Island mayor… The piano’s story history has led to it being isolated in the city center away from everyone else, derided as a cursed artifact of the island’s colored history.

Despite thinking of the letter as a cruel-hearted prank, the Moores and Conan stay at Tsukikage Island to soak in the local politics of the upcoming mayoral election and even attend the late mayor’s funeral. While there, they hear the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata and run into the room with the cursed Asoh’s piano only to find Hideo Kawashima, a mayoral candidate, drowned to death, at the helm of the piano!

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

While the mystery is underway, Conan realizes that the letter only says that a shadow will begin to fall over Tsukikage Island. And, as the Moonlight Sonata has two more movements that they’ve yet to hear, the damning realization dawns on the Moores that there may very likely be two more murders committed to this musical motif in the shadows of Tsukikage Island… And when another mayoral candidate is found murdered to the second movement of the Moonlight Sonata during the investigation, their worst fears are realized… A serial killer is out for blood.

There are only so many ways to call a story brilliant, but this one is… well, brilliant! What initially seems to be a very clues-light detective story is revealed to be a subtly complex tale of murder and deception. The haunting motif of serial killings inspired by a cursed piano lend itself not only to atmosphere, but also to a delightfully simple and elegant if technical misdirection of alibis and time-manipulation. The central misdirection here is wildly unique and very naturally implemented, clever and very credible. What’s more is that the trick almost relies on the fact that this is a serial killing, and wouldn’t be nearly as effective in a single, isolated murder case. This is also the first feature-length Detective Conan in which the killer doesn’t make a weak double-bluff that immediately reveals their identity, and I was in fact pleasantly surprised by the denouement!

The ending of the story is very touching, and I think the most character-oriented the series gets. The killer’s motive is touching, even if not unique, and the way the character is sung off for the last time beautifully reflects on and calls back to the first death of the story. In a heartfelt scene of redemption, the killer seeks retribution in saving Conan’s life…

I do feel compelled to point out three minor faults with the story. Firstly, I feel like the supernatural undertones of the cursed piano are abandoned really quickly when it’s revealed that the music is being played from a sound tape during these murders (the piano isn’t even present for the most important murder…). The story also engages in some classic Detective Conan sexism, and it’s a bit harder to ignore here because it’s a very important part of some of the deductions that move the plot along. For a moment during the denouement, you actually think they’ll double-back and make a point about the sexism being wrong but… they absolutely do double down on it. Similarly, there’s a clue involving the way a character’s name is written in Japanese… something entirely removed from the English translation with I think little hope of figuring it out otherwise.

But never you mind those quibbles. This is a beautiful, touching, and brilliant Detective Conan story that succeeds on every level from plot to character. If I were to name a single Detective Conan story that fans of classical detection should read, it would probably be this one.

Interestingly, this is when I noticed Gosho Aoyama stopped trying so hard to write around the fact that Conan is in a child’s body. During much of this story, Conan just… makes deductions, and characters either humor him or take him and everything he says 100% at face value. Occasionally Richard will hit Conan (usually implied to be because he’s showing him up), but for the most part Conan just gets away with playing detective much more blatantly. I wonder if the premise started to get a bit problematic for Aoyama to write for…

Screenshot from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World wiki

The second and last story in Volume 3, Casebook 19 – Soccer Player’s Brother Kidnapping Case (Volumes 7-8, Chapters 8-1), involves a young woman coming to the Moore house, claiming to be looking for Jimmy (Conan) because they were dating before he vanished… Because Conan knows he’s never met this woman before, he is curious as to the real reason why she’d be looking for him… And when the two accompany the woman to her apartment, he finds a ransacked child’s room and believes a kidnapping may have taken place here!

This is another kidnapping case. It’s actually the best one so far, with some okay-ish cluing and okay-ish reasoning. The plot, motive, and resolution all just kind of lift bits and pieces from CEO’s Daughter Kidnapping Case (Volume 1 Chapters 2-5) and 1 Billion Yen Case (Volume 2 Chapters 4-7), but the individual parts taken all work better when combined in this story.

What is my favorite clue in this story is there’s a clue that is only debatably fairplay, which ties into a fictional video game called Onimaru Quest. Onimaru Quest is a fictional reference to/parody of a specific real-world video game in an actual video game series, as the plot of the Onimaru Quest game becomes important in a minor way, and you might possibly be able to figure out the clue ahead of time if you’ve played the game, Dragon Quest V, before reading this story. It isn’t much of a spoiler, but I love that this specific clue exists in the story.

There’s also a very touching moment at the end not unlike the previous case in which a misunderstanding makes the culprit feel foolish… Rachel’s jealousy here is cute, but it also means the story astoundingly fails the Bechdel test.

Anyway, I know it’s a bit underwhelming after the first case in this volume, but this case is another basic kidnapping base that brings nothing new to the table.

I wholeheartedly recommend Volume 7 on the weight of The Moonlight Sonata Murder Case alone, which many Detective Conan fans will name as their favorite story in the series. While the misdirection at the heart of it isn’t Detective Conan‘s absolute number one best, as a story of detection it’s perfectly composed and pitch-perfect, beat-for-beat…

  1. Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  3. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  4. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  5. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  6. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  7. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  8. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  9. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  10. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  11. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  12. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  13. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  14. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  15. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  16. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  17. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  18. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  19. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)

On the Launching of a New Short Story Blog

This is going to be a short personal update. I’ve finally launched a sister blog called A Study in Daggers which will, for the foreseeable future, be my dumping grounds for short stories I write in the crime and mystery genres. Ironically, however, the only story currently on the blog, Life and Death Aboard the M.S. Evermore, is not a crime story, but rather a short parabolic tale inspired by my frustration with ethical hypotheticals and how easy it is to moralize in situations that have nothing to do with you.

Life and Death Aboard the M.S. Evermore was written for an online story contest where every contestant wrote under the theme “Observer”, and it had a 2700 word limit. My initial concept was way too high-faring to fit into so small a story, and what came of it was, unfortunately, a pretty neutered and cramped version of the story I dreamed of when I set out to write. Nonetheless, I’m fairly proud of it, and would love to share it.

Going forward, if I write a story that I don’t feel comfortable selling or publishing formally, it’ll go right onto A Study in Daggers. I can’t promise how often I’ll update the blog, but I hope when I do write I can draft something my readers on this blog can enjoy. The blog is also very open to constructive criticism! I only want to get better as a writer, not have my ego stroked.

Happy reading, both here and there!

Detective Conan Volume 6 (1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the sixth in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

Volume 5 of Detective Conan was a high-point! Now at Volume 6, we’re still apparently in that “early-series slog”, though we’re pretty much at the tail-end of it. Volume 6 is often lumped in with the “volumes not to judge the series from” era of early Detective Conan, and that’s kind of sad, actually, because I think anyone who judges the series from this volume would would walk away with a pretty high opinion of Detective Conan

Volume 6 opens up with Richard Moore called in to investigate a case of adultery in Casebook 15 – The Art Collector Murder Case (Chapters 2-5). His client is Denjiro Maru, famous art collector who suspects that his wife may be cheating on him and, unfortunately, Richard has picture proof evidence of this… The art collector is devastated, but in the middle of his meeting with Richard is forced to leave by an insistent telephone and a sudden visitor.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

After he doesn’t return for two whole hours, Richard angrily stomps off to find him. However, Richard is shocked to find Denjiro in a side building, pinned to wall with a sword, and with a sword in his hand! The room has been demolished, marked with sword cuts all over the walls, floor, furniture, and ceiling, indicating indisputably that the victim died of a swordfight to the death! Following the discovery of the body, three men all show up who have appointments with the victim, one of whom is Denjiro’s swordplay teacher, Yuji Suwa, the only man in the known world who could defeat Denjiro in a swordfight…

Yuji Suwa is immediately suspected of the murder of Denjiro, but when Conan notices something odd about the crime scene it forces him and Richard to reevaluate their opinion of the crime…

This one is fantastic. Although it falls into that “three suspects” alibi check formula that is so common in the series, this one’s just great. The traditional Japanese architecture, with a man strung up by an ancient sword, is a great set-piece that weirdly recalls Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Volume 4 Chapters 1-3) but recontextualized in a neat way.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

There are a number of great visual clues, a really clever linguistic/behavior clue, and the reasoning is entirely sound with no hiccoughs. The suspect-juggling in this one is also very, very good. There’s one clue that’s brilliant that demands knowledge of Japanese, but honestly I don’t think even a Japanese speaker would be able to 100% solve the jigsaw puzzle that is this clue. You can definitely probably guess what was supposed to be there, though, and I think that’s good enough to let you reach the conclusion across language barriers.

The solution turns entirely on a classic dodge. The double bluffs and baiting in this one very closely resemble the plotting styles of Agatha Christie or Christianna Brand. This is also another story where modern technology plays into the solution in a very clever way, also recalling Art Museum. This is my favorite story in the series so far, it’s just really great.

Just one gripe: the adultery sub-plot means nothing and amounts to nothing for, you know, an element that ate up such a big chunk of the early parts of the story…

The middle story of this collection, Casebook 16 – The Twin Brothers Case (Chapters 6-8), sees the official founding of the Junior Detective League — a club of mystery-solvers formed by Conan and his three classmates! Finally a fully-fledged crime-solving group, they’re disheartened when their first case is a mundane case of a missing cat…

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

However, things take a turn for the dark when they find the cat emerging from a bathroom window covered in blood. Closer investigation reveals a bloody dead body with its head submerged in the water of the bathtub! The kids immediately call for the police, but when Inspector Megure arrives and he and a bunch of constables go over the place with a fine comb, the body has disappeared! The police immediately name the kids liars, and leave, ignoring their insistence that they did find a body.

The kids immediately begin to investigate yet again…

This one’s pretty mediocre. After so much back-to-back originality, it’s kind of disappointing to see something as uninspired as this one. It has kind of a fun energy, feeling like those juvenile detective stories of Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys, but overall it’s pretty whatever. There’s only so many ways to call a story generic. I don’t really enjoy these Junior Detective Club stories.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by Detective Conan World wiki.

Norikazu Sasai has murdered his co-writer Satoru Imatake in cold blood. Rifling the room to make it look like a theft has occurred, shooting his co-writer in the forehead in their shared hotel room, and then running out of the room in front of witnesses, down the street, and then to the Tenkaichi Fire Festival where the 天, 下, and 一 characters are burnt into the mountainside to summon a good harvest for that year…

Once there, he grabs Rachel Moore and has her take a photo of him in front of the burning 一. Within minutes, he is grabbed by Officer Yokomizo under suspicion of the murder of Satoru Imatake. He immediately produces his camera, however, and insists that this camera contains proof his airtight alibi. When the film is produced, seven photos are found of him at the festival. One photo places him in front of the 下, and another places him in front of the burning 一. In order for Sasai to commit the murder and produce both of these photos he would need to be able to take the first photo, get to the hotel room, commit the murder, and return to the festival in 25 minutes.

Screenshot taken from the anime series, provided by IMDb.

It is a 40 minute bus ride one way between the hotel and the festival.

Norikazu Sasai’s alibi is airtight. But Yokomizo and Conan believe that only he could be the murderer! How will they prove this man’s guilt in light of the overwhelming evidence for his innocence in Casebook 17 – The Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Volumes 6-7, Chapters 9-1)?

Elements of the story recall the first episode of Columbo, particularly the murder of a much more successful co-writer and the story ending on the killer ironically commenting on the one time they’ve ever written a truly good story. The parallels end there, though; this story is grade-A original!

This is the first fully inverted mystery story in Detective Conan, and it’s a great one! While Detective Conan’s fourth story, The Strange Shadow Murder Case (Volume 2, Chapters 1-3), flirt with the inverted mystery genre I consider it more of an “impossible alibi” – we’re guaranteed of the killer’s guilt in spite of his airtight alibi, but see absolutely no part of his murder plot, and the puzzle is figuring out how-he-dunit. There’s still a howdunit element to this story, since we don’t exactly know how Sasai falsified the alibi photos, but I won’t push my luck with the label.

The method for falsifying the 天下一 photos are unique and clever, though I don’t believe it’ll have anybody fooled for too long. The exact way Conan proves the photos were faked, however, is very neat! There’s a visual clue the story doesn’t acknowledge but which also definitely exists and I’m proud to have picked up on.

Another fantastic story from this volume, and a close second favorite. Absolutely check this one out if you’re in the mood for a bite-sized Columbo tale.

Volume 6 is by a massive margin the best volume in the Detective Conan series, boasting the two best stories we’ve read so far! Two fantastic early stories are not let down by the existence of one bad egg. I absolutely recommend this one, it is a gem (just be careful to order Volume 7 as well to finish Tenkaichi).

  1. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  2. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  3. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  4. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  5. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  6. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  7. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  8. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  9. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  10. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  11. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  12. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  13. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  14. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  15. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  16. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  17. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)

Detective Conan Volume 5 (1994-1995) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the fifth in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

Volume 4 represented a pretty substantial leap in quality for Detective Conan, boasting what I consider to be the first truly good story in the series with the very clever, if flawed, Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Volume 4 Chapters 1-3). Although the following two stories didn’t quite live up to it, with The ORO Case (Volume 4 Chapters 7-9) being my least favorite story in the series so far, Art Museum is still a good indicator how good the series can be.

Its first attempt to live up to that story, Volume 5 leads with Detective Conan‘s second feature-length mystery, Casebook 12 – The Bandaged Man Murder Case (Chapters 1-5). Things seemed to be going well for the film club. Chikako Ikeda surprised everyone with her breakout success, a screenplay of her own being professionally realized as a movie! But, suddenly, club member Atsuko Tokumoto killed herself, hanging herself in the clubroom. Unable to look at each other, the film club disbanded…

Screenshot taken from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

Now, years later, the group has decided to meet for a reunion at an isolated vacation house in the mountains. On the way to the reunion to accompany Rachel’s friend, she and Conan see a mysteriously bandaged man crossing the bridge to the house, only for him to disappear… Nonplussed, the two continue to the house and attend the reunion.

Old wounds surrounding the suicide of Atsuko Tokumoto haven’t totally healed, as tension boils perceptibly under the surface. After a fight, Rachel goes for a walk with the club’s pretty boy Masaru Ohta, where she’s frightened by the thunder and runs away. On her way back to the house, Rachel is intercepted by the bandaged man, who attacks her with an axe! Narrowly escaping with her life, the group return to the house and debate about whether to call the police…

when the bandaged man rushes by the dining room window, carrying Ikeda with him!

Screenshot taken from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

After a chase ensues, they find the dismembered body of Ikeda in the woods! And upon returning to the house, the bridge has been destroyed! As the bandaged man doggedly pursues Rachel in constant attempt to murder her, Conan rushes to resolve the mystery and save Rachel’s life before it’s too late, in the meanwhile discovering the killer’s grudge against his friend!

I always thought this one was fairly interesting. Detective Conan‘s feature-length mysteries tend to feature three murders, so this one instead being orientated around one murder and two separate instances of attempted murder was pretty fun. Although only five chapters instead of six like the last feature-length, The Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Volume 3 Chapters 1-6), this one is a drastic and marked improvement over that one.

At the heart of The Bandaged Man Murder Case is two devilishly simple and clever misdirections, and some very smart reasoning. The persistent question of the killer’s motive for wanting Rachel dead is a very well-manufactured one that helps call attention to one of the simplest and most blatant but also most easily-missed visual clues we’ve seen. The atmosphere is also fantastic, and it makes this whole story feel aggressively Kindaichi-esque (masked killers committing murder in broad daylight is a staple of that franchise).

Screenshot taken from the anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

If I had to bring up one gripe against this story, though, it’s a persistent problem with closed-circle mysteries trying to be clever in establishing a “Suspect X”. For those who may not be aware, “Suspect X” is a term only very occasionally used in reference to closed-circle mysteries, mysteries with a suspect pool of static size due to being in an isolated environment; any character who exists (or might exist) off-screen as an additional, un-accounted-for member of this suspect pool is “Suspect X”. Often times, closed-circle mysteries will use one trick or another to attempt to falsely create the existence of a “Suspect X” — generally speaking though, I think it’s fair to say that most mystery fans are well aware that this “Suspect X” isn’t really here, and that it’s one of the principle cast members (the story establishes this early, so I don’t consider this a spoiler). This creates a problem, however, where unless you’re careful your trick can end up backfiring and putting a huge “KILLER IS ME” sign onto your culprit’s back. Essentially, similarly to The Hatamoto Murder Case, the killer attempted a dodge that ended up signaling to me their identity immediately, the exact opposite of the intended solution.

This trick is especially problematic because there’s basically no way to clue it without hiding it entirely, and the story was aware of this — because it did just hide the clue. There is one single clue that blatantly and immediately reveals the trick used here, and the story hides this clue for much of the story. Context makes the existence of the trick obvious, and this one clue makes the exact nature of the trick obvious. This specific element of the story is a major lowpoint, especially since it recalls large parts of one of my favorite Christianna Brand novels and one of my favorite Jonathan Creek episodes (granted all three were utilized for different reasons!), and I feel like this is the least creative or well-executed version of this particular maneuver.

However, I don’t want to get too down on this story. It took me a long time to explain that hyper-specific gripe, but it isn’t as big of an issue as you might think. Although I figured out that specific bit of the solution pretty quickly, I still struggled to put everything else into place, and what’s here absolutely worked very well and exactly as it was supposed to. This is another peak in the series, and another story worth seeking out, slyly overtaking Art Museum Owner.

Casebook 13 – The LEX Vocalist Murder Case (Chapters 6-9) has Rachel, her boy-loving friend from the last story, and Conan come face-to-face with a famous rockband at a karaoke bar! The band invites the group to karaoke with them, where the girls and Conan get a front-row seat to the lead vocalist, Tetsuya, harassing his fellow bandmates through a variety of targeted song recommendations. At the end of that stressful night, Tetsuya sings his own song before sitting down, eating a rice cake, and dying of potassium cyanide poisoning.

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

This is another decent one, but not an absolute favorite. The core principle of the poisoning trick here is fairly obvious and basic, and most of the story is spent trying to figure out what specific way that principle was applied. Granted, that specific method is pretty clever and relies on a neat sleight of hand, but it won’t astound you with its raw ingenuity. There are some neat clues building up the killer’s motive that are clever, but while I gather it was meant to be touching it kind of left a bad taste in my mouth; it felt like it moralized domestic abuse in a pretty half-baked way.

A decent story, worth reading if for no better reason than it shares spare with Bandaged Man.

This collection rounds out by introducing the worst thing to ever happen to Detective Conan. No, not the story; the story’s fine. But it’s the fact that stories no longer end in the volume they started in; the last story always ends a chapter into the next volume now. Everyone agrees, it’s awful, and I’ll be reviewing the stories holistically because that’s just easier for me. If you see a story that you think you’ll want to read, be wary if it’s at the end of the collection because, most likely, it ends in the next volume.

Casebook 14 – The Conan Edogawa Kidnapping Case (Volume 5 Chapters 10-11; Volume 6 Chapter 1) opens with a woman claiming to be Conan’s mother coming to the Moore house and taking Conan back into her custody. However, we know that Conan, not being a real person, has no such mother! The woman immediately reveals that is a member of the Organization, and she’s learned of Jimmy’s true identity… and she’s going to deliver her directly to the Organization for him to be murdered and dissected so that they can learn the true nature of the poison that shrunk him!

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

This one is another one of those stories like The Shinkansen Bombing Case (Volume 4 Chapters 4-6) that combines clever reasoning with a thriller/action story. I don’t have much to say about this one that I didn’t have to say about that one. The reasoning is clever, albeit not always fair, the moment-to-moment action is fun, and I really enjoy the resolution. I consider it to be a tiny bit worse than Shinkansen, because I just found the overall reasoning less interesting, but it’s about the same.

This is one is important because it does introduce us to multiple important recurring characters, like the Night Baron and Jimmy’s actual parents, so if you’re keeping track of plot-relevant ones, here’s one for you.

Volume 5 is the best volume so far! The second one worth reading since the first, starting with a fantastic long-form mystery! While the two after it aren’t as good, neither of them are outright bad! It feels good to write a whole review of earnest praise. The grapevine says it can only get better from here…

  1. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  2. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  3. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  4. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  5. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  6. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  7. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  8. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  9. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  10. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  11. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  12. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  13. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  14. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)

Detective Conan Volume 4 (1994) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the fourth in this series of reviews, I only encourage you to read my review of the first volume to get a summary of the series and my preamble about the reviews. It is not necessary to read any other entry in the series besides the first)

Detective Conan‘s first three volumes were a mixed bag. It had glimmers of decency here and there, but absolutely nothing I can actively encourage people to go out and read. People might be worried that this whole series of reviews is going to be like this forever. You might be feeling your interest wane a bit. And, frankly, I felt the same way… until I read the first story of Detective Conan volume 4.

In Volume 3 we did see Gosho Aoyama slowly start to transition to more mature mystery plotting in The Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Chapters 1-6), but it was still messy and uninspired, only marginally more complex with its three murders. It was immediately followed up by a more psychological procedural-esque story of kidnapping that was only decent in places. It is with great pleasure that we’ve finally reached volume 4, as I can finally introduce you to the first genuinely good Detective Conan story.

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

Casebook 9 – The Art Museum Owner Murder Case (Chapters 1-3) opens with two security guards at the local art museum being frightened as a suit of armor appears to spontaneously come to life and chase them down. The guards seek the professional advice of famous detective Richard Moore, who laughs off their request as ridiculous. Rachel, however, compels him to take her the museum…

On their museum trip, the Moores and Conan do much more touring than investigating. They meet multiple members of staff, including the irritated and unprofessional Kubota and the owner Manaka, who intends to sell the museum and have it repurposed into a fancy hotel…

Screenshot taken from anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

The detective family immediately forgets about the living suit of armor when Manaka the owner is stabbed to death inside of the museum’s “Hell Room”. He is ran through with a sword and pinned to the wall, mimicking a nearby painting of a knight achieving vengeance by slaying a demon… When the security footage in the Hell Room is reviewed, the victim is seen being assaulted by a living suit of armor, and murdered. However, during the attack he is also seen writing on a piece of paper… a piece of paper which the security footage proves wasn’t tampered with… and on it he had wrote the name “Kubota”, clearly implicating the employee in his murder…

This one is far from perfectly conceived. For one, it’s not entirely fair. We know that because this is a detective story, the note must’ve been faked — the trick for faking the note, we can figure out ahead of time, with a very neat visual clue. And because it’s Detective Conan we can probably guess the killer and motive right away. However, there’s no way to actually connect the note-faking trick or any other detail of the murder to the identity of the killer until the story does it for you.

I was also disappointed that the “living suit of armor” bit didn’t open up a Carrian impossible crime quite like I expected it would. The suit of armor bit is really just a visually interesting means of hiding the killer’s identity. In fact, the whole art museum setting could’ve been utilized a bit more. There was one segment where the killer uses a “DO NOT ENTER” sign to ward off a part of the museum to commit the murder, and I was kind of hoping that’d become an actual trick in the mystery, but… well, no.

But, I dunno. Maybe my standards have shifted while reading a bunch of pretty middling stories, because I really liked this one purely on the strength of the central trick of the note faking. The method of falsifying the dying message was lowkey, but a really elegant and cute little trick that was, from my perspective, pretty unique, especially since it’d be much less reliable in a world where video cameras do not exist. It’s the sort of trick and visual clue I could see Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney pulling out for a fun mid-case contradiction (these words mean nothing to most of my audience…)

The ending also has a neat, charming little poetic note that works better than a few others in the series. The killer graciously relinquishes himself to the police on the weight of the message of the very same painting he attempted to mimic…

Unambiguously the best story so far. It’s the story that rekindled my interest in Detective Conan when I initially started to lose faith in the series, and the first one I would probably recommend you go out and read…

Chapter 10 – Shinkansen Bombing Case (Chapters 4-6) has our lead characters on a train where Conan runs into the very same people who poisoned him! While trying to do some espionage work, he discovers that they have just performed a trade and that their client’s merchandise has been rigged with a timebomb! Now, no longer able to worry about finding a sample of the poison they used on him, Conan sets off to attempt to find the Organization’s client and save the train!

Screenshot taken from anime series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

A decent, tense action-/thriller-y Detective Conan story with some neat moments of genuinely clever (if not always fair) reasoning. Important as it advances the plot of the story for the first time in a whole 30-and-change chapters. It’s not overly obvious where it goes, either, but in my opinion the thriller-y stories are just inherently less interesting than the pure detective stories. It’s fun enough, though.

The Organization members’ codenames are awful in the American version of the manga… The alcohol-themed Japanese names were much more charming.

Casebook 11 – The ORO Case (Chapters 7-9) sucks. It’s the second story revolving around Conan’s elementary school friends, after Haunted Mansion Case (Volume 2 Chapters 8-10), and has the gang cracking two codes you don’t have a chance in Hell of figuring out. The first code is a cute pun that only works if you speak Japanese, being I believe the first in a pretty long trend of stories where some Americanization would be appreciated.

Screenshot taken from the manga series and provided by Detective Conan World Wiki

The second code is a series of symbols which, without giving away too much, relate to a series of SOMETHINGs you’d see on storefronts. The reason I’m so upset with this story is that there are multiple establishing shots of storefronts where these SOMETHINGs could’ve been hidden in plain sight (who studies establishing shots?), actually making the story somewhat fair and a little more fun. But they don’t show you the SOMETHINGs until the characters crack what the code is supposed to mean. Conan’s reasoning is pretty weak all throughout this story too, as he lucks from one conclusion to the next. The worst story in the series so far.

Talk about uneven! Beginning with the best story so far and ending with the worst, Volume 4 is not a new gold standard. It has the story, however, that fully convinced me that Detective Conan is worth reading, and it’s one I still think of fairly fondly to this day. If just for the fantastic first story, and the decent plot-relevant second one, Volume 4 is the first volume since the first I’d recommend you add to your collection.

  1. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  2. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  3. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  4. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  5. Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  6. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  7. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  8. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  9. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  10. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  11. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)