Who doesn’t love to solve a classic murder case? Tim Dedopulos’ “Whodunit Puzzles” offers 47 whodunits on two levels. The first is a collection of 39 short stories, just a couple of pages long with a hint of what to look at to solve the case. The rest are more complex and longer cases that come with more cues. Each puzzle features one of three investigators who are at the scene of crime and conduct the interviews with the suspects.
The puzzles are a great pastime activity that I thoroughly enjoyed. They are short, so you can just integrate one while waiting e.g. for the bus or at the doctor’s. They keep the mind busy as you have to read carefully not to miss the decisive hint. The setting of the stories just like the plots are quite varied and – just like the style of writing – reminded me of books of the Golden Age of Crime. The same is true for the three investigators. Illustrations here and there support the atmosphere of the puzzles.
The lower level puzzles are quite solvable, nevertheless, I didn’t get the right figure all the time, the upper level I found quite challenging. I liked the mysteries as I am a fan of classic crime novels.
Murder and mystery are what they are all interested in as the members of the so called Mystery Club of their university. They like to delve in the classic stories and to solve the puzzles of crimes. They have even given themselves nick names after the great classic writers of crime novels: Ellery, Carr, Leroux, Poe, Van, Agatha and Orczy. When they are invited to the remote island of Tsunojima, they are thrilled. It has been the place of a quadruple murder the year before and thus promises an interesting week which they want to spend with writing and enjoying themselves. Yet, they did not count on somebody waiting there for them to settle an old bill which is to be paid with their lives. In the meantime, on the mainland, three people receive letters insinuating that something strange might be going on and that a presumably dead killer might still be around.
“Even if the world were viewed as a chessboard, and every person on it a chess piece, there would still be a limit as to how far future moves could be predicted. The most meticulous plan, plotted to the last detail, could still go wrong sometime, somewhere, somehow.”
Yukito Ayatsuji’s debut novel is clearly inspired by the novels of the Golden Age of crime using the classic setting. “The Decagon House Murders” was first published in Japan in 1987 but only now the English translation is available. The reader alternatingly follows the evens on the island, where one after the other student finds his/her death and on the mainland, where they do not know what exactly happens there but try to combine the murders of the year before with the current events and the mysterious letters they got. Even though both lines of enquiry provide numerous ideas of what could be happening, the reader remains in the dark until the very end, just to discover what can only be called the perfect murder.
The novel is a homage to the classic crime novels and mystery readers who have always enjoyed Agatha Christie and the like will be totally enthralled. The plot, first of all, lives on the atmosphere of the island which is not very welcoming and cut off from the outside thus strongly reminding of “And Then There Were None”. The fact that it was the scene of a dreadful murder only months before adds to the its mysterious vibes. The murders seem to be carefully planned, no repetition in how they students find death and therefore leaving you pondering about one person could manage all this without being detected.