Top 15 Favorite Impossible Crimes – Revision 0

I’ve never liked making “top favorite” lists in genres where I am so painfully aware of how little I’ve experienced in contrast to how much of it still exists waiting for me. Making a list of my favorite impossible crime novels specifically felt impossible because I’m just so, so, so aware of how many likely very good locked-room mysteries are sitting in my to-be-read pile right now. It’s worse, in fact, since I’ve started studying Japanese and have become more aware of a whole new world of obviously brilliant mystery novels. My personal horizon is so narrow, but the potential is so broad and it makes me feel like any list I make will come off as pedestrian. That’s why I’ve labeled this “revision 0”; I’m confident that by this time in 2023 the list will look immensely different. Maybe 33% of the entire list will be traded out by that time, I’m sure, and there will be at least one revision

This list is media non-specific. Television, movies, video games, comics may all apply. This is also why I’ve also settled on 15, rather than 10, because in the making of this list I realized that it was hyper-dominated by locked-room mysteries from Japanese novels and non-novel media, and I wanted to make some room for good, accessible, western media too. I’ll also only include one full entry from an author, including honorable mentions if necessary. Having qualified my list and the title of the post, my top 15 favorite impossible crimes, in no particular order, are…

Death of Jezebel – Christianna Brand (1949)

Anyone who has ever spoken to me will not be surprised by this being my immediate first inclusion on a list of favorite impossible crimes. Not only is Death of Jezebel my favorite Christianna Brand novel, not only is it my favorite impossible crime novel, it’s simply my favorite Golden Age mystery novel ever written. Christianna Brand is in top-form at demonstrating her ability to build up entire false narratives and hoodwink you into them, to bait the audience into believing things without ever really saying or doing anything. A masterclass in misdirection, the murder of a woman in a locked-and-guarded tower during a play also features multiple grand mechanical and technical tricks that are clever, novel, and macabre. One of four Brand masterpieces that I think even people with no interest in impossible crimes should give a chance.

The Moai Island Puzzle – Arisu Arisugawa (1989), trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2016)

The impossible shooting that occurs in this novel is a very strong alibi trick, but as good as it is this element of the story is only a small part of what makes The Moai Island Puzzle so strong a contender for fans of mysteries-as-a-puzzle. Puzzles buried within ciphers wrapped within riddles and tied-up with lateral thinking problems are the name of the game with this novel that celebrates puzzles as almost like an artform. A brilliantly intriguing and cerebral mystery novel.

Whistle Up the Devil – Derek Smith (1953)

Cringe-inducing romance and overly-convoluted climax aside, this is a homerun of an impossible crime novel. The principle murder of a man conducting a ceremony within a supposedly haunted room is just a good offering, with a complex arrangement of what still amounts to a quick series of little tricks we’ve all seen before, obvious bits and pieces and sleights of hand, but nonetheless enjoyably convoluted. What elevates this novel from good to fantastic is the knee-slapping devious and blastedly simple alibi trick employed in the secondary murder in a police station that nobody ever walked into or out of, aside from two men who were in each other’s view for every point of time that mattered. This short story-length masterpiece hiding in an otherwise just-above-average impossible crime makes this well-worth reading.

Here I want to give a quick honorable mention to Derek Smith’s other novel, Come to Paddington Fair, which if you were to ask me probably has a more brilliantly-plotted and conceived central murder, and a much more unique trick. I neglect to mention it as a proper entry on the list, because I felt like when you realized that coincidence doesn’t exist in a deliberately-plotted world the beginning of the story spoils the resolution in such a way that it makes much of the ensuing investigation feel redundant. Come to Paddington Fair is a fantastic idea, but unfortunately relies so majorly on an early Christie-esque dodge that, if you’re not hoodwinked by it, ends up toppling the whole story and every misdirection that comes after it. I noticed the initial dodge immediately, and pieced together the rest of the plot before the story had even hit its stride, and that did dock a few points for me. I still heavily recommend it, because while I feel like it spoils itself by being too clever by half, I think I’d always prefer a too-clever-for-itself story to its dull counterpart any day — it’s novel, unique, and a very intelligently plotted crime novel with a very innovative take on how to establish an impossible crime.

Murder in the Crooked HouseSōji Shimada (1982), trans. Louise Heal Kawai (2019)

Sōji Shimada is the Japanese locked-room murder, well known for his output of well over 50 novels featuring locked-rooms and other various impossible murders. His other major impossible crime offering, The Tokyo Zodiac Murders, which is also available in English is much more well-known and equally deserving of praise for its brilliance and grandiosity of mechanical scale, but I just adore Murder in the Crooked House. Sōji Shimada, I feel, is an author you’ll either adore or hate. His settings and solutions are brilliant and original, but also stretch credulity and highlight above anything else the puzzle. As a sheer lateral thinking exercise, Murder in the Crooked House contains one of the best impossible crimes in any novel ever, even if I can’t confidently say it’s one of the best novels containing an impossible crime. It is wholly original, complex, intricately-plotted, and taut, and a fantastic puzzle from end to end with a fantastic method for committing murder in a triple-locked room that more than makes up for its obvious culprit.

Time to Kill – Roger Ormerod (1974)

Roger Ormerod is an author who wrote well after the Golden Age had ended. Despite this, his novels had all of the fairly-clued plotting and cerebral misdirection and alibi tricks as a novel from the 1930s, blended with the aesthetic of a gritty contemporary PI novel. His debut novel is an impossible alibi problem — from the moment the murder is committed, we know who the killer is, but there’s one problem: the killer has an airtight alibi provided by the narrator himself and we have no idea how he committed this murder under such impossible-for-him circumstances. I used to think that there were only three basic explanations for the impossible alibi, but Time to Kill offers a fourth possibility that to this day is still my favorite explanation for this particular problem. It perfectly sets up Ormerod’s thorough and educated understanding of Golden Age-styled alibi trickery almost in the style of Christopher Bush — a lost disciple of the puzzle mystery that more people should be seeking out.

Till Death Do Us Part – John Dickson Carr (1944)

Despite being a self-styled disciple of the impossible crime problem, I’m actually incredibly ashamed to admit that my reading into John Dickson Carr’s oeuvre is very limited! My first review on this blog was me airing out how little I enjoyed The Case of the Constant Suicides. Aside from that, I’ve only read a small handful of specially-recommended Carrs, only around 10 I think. I’ve been so caught-up in reading other impossible crime novels that I’ve neglected to honor the master himself! Let this be a wake-up call to me to get back to Carr…

Till Death Do Us Part is absolutely the most brilliant locked-room conceived by Carr that I’ve read. Preceded by expectation, nobody needs to know what I have to say about this book. It’s damnably simple and clever, the puzzle is brilliantly conceived, the cluing clever and well-done.

Jonathan Creek (Season 1 Episode 2) “Jack in the Box” – David Renwick (1997)

Jonathan Creek is a late 90’s-early 2000s BBC drama featuring the titular magician’s assistant who uses his knowledge of stage illusions to solve locked-room murders and impossible crimes. I think the series is incredibly hit-or-miss, containing both some of my favorite and least favorite locked-room mysteries ever conceived, and it might be a little worrying that in Jonathan Creek‘s 17 year run I think the show peaked in its second episode ever…

There are more than a small handful of fantastic impossible crimes in this series, actually. The Christmas special “Black Canary”, the first episode of season two “Danse Macabre” are both also great, but “Jack in the Box” really perfected the formula right out of the gate with a satisfying and original explanation to the shooting of a man in a locked-and-sealed bunker that entirely inverts the very premise of a locked-room murder as a question of how the killer escaped from the room.

The Great Ace Attorney 2: The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō (Case 3)
“The Return of the Great Departed Soul” – Shū Takumi (2017)

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is a Japanese mystery video game series, one game of which I’ve reviewed on this blog. In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and all of its subsequent spinoff titles, the player takes on the role of a lawyer tasked with proving the innocence of clients falsely accused of murder. Using a point-and-click interface, the player investigates crime scenes, interviews wacky witnesses and suspects, and collects evidence. The next day, the player goes to court and is tasked with cross-examining witnesses who are either grossly mistaken about what they saw or hell-bent on seeing your client behind bars and deliberately lying. Through a series of simple question prompts, the player finds lies in testimony statements, presents evidence to expose the lies, and then is loosely-guided on a series of Ellery Queen-esque sequences of deductions and logic where the player explains why the lie was told or the mistake was made and then what the truth of the situation is. By the end of every case, the real killer is discovered and your client is saved from wrongful imprisonment!

In the spinoff series The Great Ace Attorney the format is shaken up by placing the player in the role of Phoenix Wright’s ancestor Ryūnosuke Naruhodō, a Japanese lawyer who teams up with the Great Detective Herlock Sholmes in Victorian London. The third case of the second game of this particular series is a very unique take on the impossible crime problem, inspiring one of my 15 categories of impossible crimes — the impossible technology problem!

Your client is a scientist who was presenting an instantaneous kinesis machine, a piece of technology that is capable of molecularly dissembling any human subject and then reassembling them somewhere else, allowing them to teleport from one location to another in the blink of an eye! Unfortunately, during the presentation, his assistant and test subject was teleported to the wrong location. While he was meant to be transported to the INSIDE of a nearby glass tower, the test subject was instead manifested a few dozen feet in the air above the tower, whereupon he fell through the walls of the tower. The police were summoned only to find the man stabbed to death by a screwdriver through the heart. Since the tower was totally inaccessible to anyone until the police arrived, it’s determined that the only person who could’ve committed this murder is your client, who must’ve stabbed the victim before teleporting him away. In order to prove your client’s innocence, you need to prove how the teleportation could’ve been faked! But how else can you explain a man moving hundreds of feet into the air in less than a second…

The solution to the teleportation isn’t at all difficult to figure out, but there’s a second and third puzzle hiding in the background of this case that makes it brilliant. The true explanation for the murder when you get past the impossible problem is genuinely shocking, and there are quite a few plot threads that connect this murder to an ages-old serial killing that the rest of the game’s narrative is concerned with. A brilliantly innovative presentation of impossible crimes, the method of connecting this subplot to the overarching narrative of the game is a masterstroke of writing, and a somewhat obvious impossible solution doesn’t stop the mystery from offering up some genuine surprises. One of the best cases from a very, very good mystery series.

Death Among the Undead – Masahiro Imamura (2017) trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2021)

One of the most defining features of the shin-honkaku movement that I feel like westerners don’t see from just the translations we get from Vertigo Pushkin and Locked Room International is the amount of authors who love to experiment with form, style, and genre without betraying the underlying and ever-present element of a complex, cerebral puzzle. Hybrid mysteries, the sort we get from Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi mysteries like The Cave of Steel, are even more present in modern Japanese mystery writing than they ever were over here! There are authentically Golden Age-styled mysteries written to take place within the confines of a world that operates under the rules of a fantasy roleplaying video game, or mysteries set within fantasy worlds. There’s a short story collection about a group of murderers who share stories of their exploits over an internet board and every story is a different member of the board. And then there’s Masahiro Imamura’s breakout hybrid mystery, Death Among the Undead, which combines the locked-room mystery with a zombie apocalypse!

Death Among the Undead is a brilliant piece of work with three absolutely stunning impossible crimes that all three offer up entirely novel and unique explanations to the problem of murders committed in locked-rooms either provided by or enhanced by the presence of a horde of brain-eating undead! This novel is an absolute jaw-dropper of plotting genius that can confidently stand with its head held high among any classic of the genre. It is no less a classic, puzzle-driven impossible crime story for the presence of zombies — in fact, I’d say it’s even more so, as the rigid rules that the zombies abide by offer an extra layer of complexity and reasoning. Simply fantastic.

Death in the House of Rain – Szu-Yen Lin (2006) trans. (2017)

Death in the House of Rain is a dangerous impossible crime novel, because its an idea that I feel like could’ve easily failed. It doesn’t succeed on the strength of its core idea alone, but on the framing of its idea through the personification of fate and fortune as almost its own character, which arguably is the true killer, above anyone else who might’ve committed murder in the story. The solutions to the three first disparate locked-room murders are all connected by a single thread that is very devious and devilishly simple, brimming with an original idea whose reliance on coincidence could’ve easily failed if not for the underlying theme of fortune. It’s, in fact, an idea I proposed in my List of 50 Locked-Room Solutions which people often privately criticized me for because no impossible crime existed which could claim to use the solution, so I’ll admit I’m a little biased from reading this book and getting that feeling of aha! I told you!.

A fourth impossible crime brilliantly rises from the resolution of the previous three as a connecting thread, and it’s just as good as you could hope. This novel is fantastic, but easily could’ve not been.

The Kindaichi Case Files Shin (Case 3) “The Prison Prep School Murder Case” – Seimaru Amagi (2006)

I actually know very little about the Kindaichi Case Files franchise or its sister series Detective School Q, having only organically read one or two mysteries from each of them. They weren’t bad at all, mind you! Honorable mention to Detective School Q‘s first proper murder mystery for being blindingly brilliant, actually! However, I was directed to this particular case by TomCat’s blog post on this very same topic, and reading it honestly reawoke my interest in the two franchises! This is ingenuity distilled into its purest form, plain and simple, with a grand, brilliant, and complex impossible alibi trick at the heart of it.

Both Kindaichi Case Files and Detective School Q are classic examples of the locked-room mystery puzzle plot in the realms of anime/manga series, and having read one of the best impossible crime stories of all time by sheer chance in these series I can easily recommend anyone and everyone to seek this series out and read it if they have even a tiny interest in locked-room mysteries. John Dickson Carr would be proud of these two detective series. I read this case in Japanese in the manga, but the anime adaptation is available in English for anyone curious!

Case Closed/Detective Conan (Anime-original, Episodes 603-605)
The Séance’s Double Locked Room Mystery Case – Gosho Aoyama

Detective Conan, as I’ve mentioned on my post about the franchise, contains many classics of basically any form of Golden Age-styled plotting you can think of. Alibi problems, locked-room mysteries, inverted mysteries, Detective Conan could probably make a top 10 list of any of them. Between both the manga and the anime, Detective Conan has produced more than its fair share of strong impossible crimes, many of which could end up on a list like this. For anime-originals, honorable mention to The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly, which I think is more inventive and innovative, but The Séance’s Double Locked Room Mystery Case narrowly won out for its intricate intertwining of two impossible crimes. A brilliant set of two locked-rooms that rely on each other for their solutions makes this case a stand-out for its uniqueness of plotting, and the solutions are nothing to sneeze at either, but trust me when I say there are probably at least seven other Detective Conan impossible crimes equally worth mentioning at some point or another…

“The Lure of the Green Door” by Rintarō Norizuki (1991) trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2014)

The standout story from international tour of impossible crimes, The Realm of the Impossible, “The Lure of the Green Door” is a locked-room mystery inspired by the premise of an old science fiction parable by English author H. G. Wells in which a man enters a green door to another world. In “The Lure of the Green Door”, a man is murdered in his locked-and-sealed study with a green door that isn’t locked but mysteriously cannot be opened… The solution is a physical trick that plays on an old concept, but it’s a startling unique take on the concept that I’m proud to have solved ahead of time. The scale of the solution is also great without detracting from the elegance of the trick! A masterpiece of the short-form locked-room mystery.

“The Clown in the Tunnel” by Tetsuya Ayukawa (1958) trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2020)

A clown commits a murder, is seen running into a tunnel, and then vanishes before he can appear from the other side!

Tetsuya Ayukawa is a Japanese author famous for crossing wires between impossible crimes and alibi problems. As the introduction to the The Red Locked-Room collection notes, Ayukawa often uses alibi tricks to establish impossible crimes, and locked-room tricks to establish alibis. This gimmick very often lends itself to old tricks being applied in unique, novel, and stunning ways, and “The Clown in the Tunnel” is the best example of this! An absolute stunning example of how an alibi trick can lend itself to an impossible disappearance, and one of the best stories from a very good collection.

“The Ginza Ghost” – Ōsaka Keikichi (1936) trans. Ho-Ling Wong (2017)

The Ginza Ghost is a fantastic collection of impossible crimes from early Japanese crime writer Ōsaka Keikichi. Despite it existing in the early eras of the honkaku school of plotting, this collection shows off an author who demonstrates marked ingenuity and genius, with ideas that are still novel nearly 90 years in the future. The best story in the collection is easily the title story, “The Ginza Ghost”, which features a murder inside of a locked tobacco shop where a woman appears to have killed another and then herself — however, mysteriously, the murderer appears to have died significantly before her victim, suggesting the presence of a ghost who committed the crime… Ordinarily, I don’t enjoy impossible crimes that rely so centrally on an accident for the illusion to function — I’m a sucker for cartoonishly intelligent criminal geniuses — but the accident in this case is so elegant, simple, and brilliantly unique that it’s impossible not to love it.

And there you have it, my 15 favorite locked-room mysteries, which is 66.6% Japanese, quite a few of which aren’t even from novels. I’m sure Ho-Ling doesn’t mind the free publicity. I don’t mind to seem biased, but there are just so many strong and ingeniously plotted mysteries in the Japanese honkaku and shin-honkaku schools of mystery writing… This list will definitely not last long, but I enjoyed making it.

Detective Conan Volume 11 (1996) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the eleventh 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 10 of Detective Conan wasn’t the best of the volumes we had so far, but a far shot from the average quality we were getting earlier on in the series. While its third story was hurt significantly by a Japanese-centric clue, it was still absolutely ingenious. It also had the best Junior Detective League story so far in it, as well as a pretty decent locked-room mystery. Volume 11 comes with a good recommendation from Mr. Sands of Time himself, TomCat, boasting what he considers one of his favorite locked-room mysteries in the entire franchise…

Richard Moore is invited to a detective-themed talkshow, on which he’s asked to give a dissertation to the people on the work he does in solving murders. He gives a talk about the security features of cellular phones, and the show cuts to a murder mystery skit that the live studio audience has a chance to figure out themselves… During this skit the host of the show, Takashi Matsuo, calls his producer Michihiko Suwa and threatens to jump off of the roof. Suwa opens the window to the conference room in which he’s waiting to tell him to stop, and is immediately shot.

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

After the show, Suwa’s body is found inside of the conference room. Conan immediately suspects the host Matsuo, but there’s one problem: in order to get from the stage to the conference room would take nearly three times as long as the time Matsuo was offered, offering him an airtight alibi. Nonetheless, Conan doggedly sticks to his lead, and attempts to prove Matsuo’s guilt in Casebook 28 – The TV Station Murder Case (Chapters 2-4).

The TV Station Murder Case is another hum-dinger of an inverted mystery. Very similarly to the last inverted mystery, The Tenkaichi Fire Festival Murder Case (Casebook 17, Volumes 6-7 Chapters 9-1), this mystery has an element of howdunit. We do know who the killer is, and we do know roughly what their plan is, as we see it conducted from their perspective; however, we do not know how Matsuo managed to get from the stage to the conference room to commit the murder in the time allotted to him. The explanation is perhaps a little less inspired than in Tenkaichi, and is very unreliable in how it turns on the victim performing a very specific action in a very specific way, but it’s nonetheless fun and doesn’t detract from the overall experience in any meaningful way.

The way the killer is caught, like in the previous inverted mystery, is clever, but this story really shines in its denouement — Conan’s deductions are aired to the world as part of the mystery-themed talkshow, and he’s cheered on by the show’s massive audience as he corners the killer. It’s an unbelievably fun denouement that wraps up an unbelievably fun story.

Casebook 29 – The Coffee Shop Murder Case (Chapters 5-7) has Conan with Ran at a coffee shop, waiting for an unknown person, but when a woman is found murdered in a locked stall in the restroom, Conan is able to reduce the suspect list to three people…

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

I think this one is silly and just not very good. It’s a locked-ish room in presentation, since the mystery is “how could someone climb through the opening without getting covered in the victim’s blood”, but I think the trick used here, on top of not being very compelling, is just unreasonable and unnecessary in getting the desired effect. Maybe if I re-read this in the future I’d like it more, but I do not enjoy this mystery much at all as it stands. It’s just a killer

Conan gets helped by a lawyer who turns out to be Rachel’s mother, making it a plot-relevant story, unfortunately, so if you’re deep in the overarching Case Closed lore, then you’ll have to give this story a read.

Casebook 30 – The Tengu Murder Case (Chapters 8-10) has Conan and the Moores’ car breakdown outside of an old shrine where they’re taken in by monks. While there, they learn about a years-old murder that took place in that temple. A murder committed by a beast of Japanese legend, a Tengu… But upon probing into it, the Moores anger the head-monk, who tells them they will have to be on their way the very next day.

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

Unfortunately, that night, the head monk is found killed in a way that resembles the old case… Strung up impossibly inside of a room dozens of feet high, fatally hanging from the ceiling beams. When it’s further proven that it’s nearly impossible for a human being to carry a body over those beams to hang him, it’s ruled that the death must be a suicide. But Conan is not convinced, and gets to work proving how the head monk could’ve been murdered!

Complaints that this was never proven to be an “impossible” crime and is more of a “wildly improbable” crime aside, this is an absolute whammy of an impossible crime! The eventual solution is one of those unreasonably high-scale mechanical solutions of the type you’d associate with Soji Shimada’s mysteries like The Murders in the Crooked House, and it is very inspired, if not a bit on the absurd side as well. I agree with TomCat’s prognosis that this story would only be tolerable in the form of a comicbook and would be a little hard to swallow as a novel written in the 19xx’s. Nonetheless, it was very satisfying, novel, and well-done, and easily one of the best stories in the series so far. It’s the first impossible crime in Detective Conan that I really feel strongly about.

Volume 11 has one of the worst stories we’ve seen so far, but it’s sandwiched between two of the absolute best. Since both fantastic stories start and conclude in this volume as well, I can easily recommend interested peoples find a copy for their bookshelves if they’re in the mood for a fantastic impossible crime and a fantastic inverted mystery. A fantastic volume and an easy recommendation.

  1. ————THE GOOD————
    Moonlight Sonata (CB#18 V7 C2-7)
  2. Tengu Murder (CB#30 V11 C8-10)
  3. Art Collector (CB#15 V6 C2-5)
  4. Tenkaichi Festival (CB#17 V6-7 C9-1)
  5. TV Station (CB$28 V11 C2-4)
  6. Bandaged Man (CB#12 V5 C1-5)
  7. Night Baron (CB#20 V8 C2-7)
  8. Wealthy Daughter (CB#24 V9-10 C7-1)
  9. Art Museum Owner (CB#9 V4 C1-3)
  10. Library Employee Murder Case (CB#26 V10 C6-8)
  11. ————THE DECENT————
    Poisoned Bride (CB#21 V8 C8-10)
  12. Kogoro Richard’s Reunion (CB#23 V9 C4-6)
  13. Strange Shadow (CB#4 V2 C1-3)
  14. Diplomat Murder Case (CB#25 V10 C 2-6)
  15. LEX Vocalist (CB#13 V6 C6-9)
  16. Hatamoto Murder (CB#7 V3 C1-6)
  17. Shinkansen Bombing (CB#10 V4, C4-6)
  18. Conan Kidnapping (CB#14 V5-6 C10-1)
  19. Medical Professor (CB#27 V10-11 C9-1)
  20. ————THE BAD————
    Haunted Mansion Case (CB#6 V2, C8-10)
  21. Idol Locked-Room (CB#3 V1, C6-9)
  22. Roller Coaster (CB#1 V1 C1)
  23. Soccer Brother (CB#19 V7-8 C8-1)
  24. Monthly Presents (CB#8 V3 C7-10)
  25. Twin Brothers (CB#16 V6 C6-8)
  26. President’s Daughter (CB#2 V1, C2-5)
  27. Billion Yen (CB#5 V2 C4-7)
  28. Coffee Shop (CB#29 V11 C5-7)
  29. ORO (CB#11 V4 C7-9)
  30. Ayumi Kidnapping (CB#22 V9 C-13)

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)

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)

Detective Conan Volume 3 (1994) by Gosho Aoyama

(*Note, although this is the third 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)

While we move through the ever-famous “Early-Series Slog”, there really isn’t a lot to say. I’ll just whet your appetite: we’re getting to the good stuff. I promise. Volume 3 is actually a turning point for the series, as its first story, Casebook 7 – The Hatamoto Family Murder Case (Chapters 1-6) is the first “long mystery” in Detective Conan.

If you’ve read the last two reviews, you’ll notice that most Detective Conan cases last about three chapters, sometimes four. This one lasts for six, so double-length. This isn’t an isolated occurrence, and will happen occur quite frequently going forward. I also consider this to be the first indication that Gosho Aoyama is trying to write more “mature”, complex mystery plots suitable for adults. How well does Aoyama use this space now that he has it?

It’s okay.

In The Hatamoto Family Murder Case, the Moores and Conan (off-screen) attend a vacation at a nice island resort. However, because Richard forgot to book them a return trip, they were generously invited onto the private cruiseliner of the wealthy Hatamoto family, currently celebrating the recent nuptials of the family’s youngest daughter Natsue. While on the ship, the Moores are treated to first-hand witness the cruelties of the Hatamoto’s elderly patriarch, Gozo Hatamoto.

All screenshots taken from the anime series and supplied by Detective Conan World Wiki.

When the reception dinner comes, and Gozo isn’t present, the entire ship goes to find him murdered inside of his locked and sealed private cabin! Suspicion immediately falls on his granddaughter Natsue’s fiance, who is revealed to be the son of a former business rival who killed himself after Gozo’s company put his out of business. When two more attacks occur, Conan is set on discovering the true identity of the killer and proving that young man’s innocence…

This is probably the best-crafted mystery story in the series so far, at least. We get a larger cast of characters with more defined (marginally) dynamics and personalities, more protracted investigations, and a little more complexity. However, it’s far from perfect. There aren’t very many tricks or deceptions at play, and the few that are really are not that interesting and will be immediately obvious to any long-time reader of mystery stories. There’s a few interesting clues and points of reasoning, but it’s all pretty low-key fare. The locked room is explained solved immediately, and is more “a clue” than “the puzzle” of the story, so I really don’t consider this a proper locked-room mystery either, but I’ll still give it the tag…

Ultimately, I think it’s the best-crafted mystery story so far, but not the best mystery story. It’s still beat out by Strange Shadow, but only barely. Not worth seeking out unless you desperately want to see a Detective Conan milestone.

The story in a number of places recalls parts of J. J. Connington’s Murder in the Maze, especially in the weak dodge the killer attempts, the personality of the killer, and the clue of sounds heard in a certain order. None of these elements are particular to Murder in the Maze, but I dunno, I thought of this novel while reading the story.

All screenshots taken from the anime series and supplied by Detective Conan World Wiki.

Because the first story was so long, this volume only has room for one more story, that being Casebook 8 – The Monthly Presents Case (Chapters 7-10). A doctor is receiving 1 million yen and a strange assortment of child toy’s every month for the last two years. He initially thought nothing of it, but when the 25th month comes with a note claiming to want to “finish the transaction”. This mystery turns into a race against the clock as the doctor’s son is soon kidnapped, as we see the culprit slowly make plans to murder the five year-old boy…

Some parts I like are buried in a pretty unremarkable story. The psychological undertones in the scenes showing an adult man prepare himself for the murder of a young child are suitably haunting, and I did actually like the ending (even if it’s one of the many cases of Detective Conan trying to moralize legitimately terrible behavior based on absolutely nothing). However, as a moment-to-moment detective story I didn’t care for the more procedural-ish plotting, and like most of the other stories we’ve read so far it’s pretty uninspired from beginning to end, as well as painfully obvious. You’d need to actively put forth effort to not predict where this story is going at every step of the way, which is a shame because I initially thought the premise was pretty interesting when they were setting it up.

A weak tale of deduction with tiny glimmers of decent character work don’t make this story a Detective Conan classic, though..

Before I get to the ranking, I have some good news! Volume 4 is the beginning of the transitionary period where we start getting genuinely good stories that I can actually recommend you go out of your way to read just based on the weight of the story alone without modulating my opinions! Huzzah! Volume 3 wasn’t bad at all, but it’s still pretty unremarkable in that early Detective Conan kind of way. Fortunately it’s fast reading.

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