"A cat is more intelligent than people believe, and can be taught any crime."- Mark Twain
The 51st volume of Case Closed, known to most as Detective Conan, starts off with the concluding chapter of a story that began in the previous volume, in which Conan and Harley were reminiscing over the telephone about one of their first murder cases.
Over a period of several years, two men apparently took their own lives while riding alone on a ski lift. They were shot through the head and a bag filled with snow was found next to them, which could be interpreted as a calling card of the malevolent snow spirit – whom reputedly haunts the white-topped mountain peaks of the region. I mentioned in my review of the previous volume I had a rough idea how the murderer pulled off this trick. Well, I was partially right, but nice to see how Aoyama took a different approach to create this illusion, because I was expecting something along the lines of the no-footprints trick from volume 20.
However, the amount of familiar (side) characters and detectives crawling the slopes of that resort made Aoyama's bustling, ever-expending universe look like a small world after all.
The second story can be filed away under filler material and consists of two chapters. Conan, Rachel and Richard Moore are enjoying some refreshments at Café Poirot when they are launched into a search operation for a missing child. The only clues they have to go one are a some cryptic text messages of which this was the last one, "I'm scared of dying like a fish in a net." It's short. It's simple. It's filler. But passable filler.
In the third story, Doc Agasa takes Conan and the Junior Detective League along to the beach to dig around for clams. At the beach, they meet a group of college students and lovers of delicious shellfish, but they become very gloomy when a recent hit-and-run accident is mentioned. The one who appeared to have been constantly depressed is found not long after in what looks like a suicide, but Conan figures there's more to it than that and figures out how someone managed to poison a bottle of green tea without being observed – which makes this an impossible crime story and a pretty clever one at that.
However, the best poisoning story (IMHO) from this series still comes from the 15th volume, in which a moneylender is administrated cyanide in his locked office building. The explanation is given in a chapter aptly titled, "The Devil's Summons."
The next story is another short one, spanning only two chapters, which spoofs "Tortoiseshell Holmes," a cat-detective created by Jiro Akagawa, but being aware of the cozy cat detectives would be enough for us (Western readers) to appreciate this story. Moore has to baby-sit his wife's new kitten, Ricky, who's giving subtle hints that are helping him deciphering a coded text message for a client. These code-cracking stories are next to impossible to solve, but I managed to solve this one instinctively. Or, as I like to call it, "educated guesswork."
Finally, the last three chapters form the last story of this volume and returns to one of the locations from volume 5, but the story turned out to be a bit of a disappointment – in spite of two different locked room mysteries. The first one concerns a window that was nailed shut from the inside, but can still be opened by a demon to peek out and this has been witnessed. This is followed by a hanging in a room of which the doors and windows were locked from the inside, but the tricks were as old as the house they were staged and there was a simple, elegant explanation for the second impossible situation.
The hanging victim had a special key chain on her belt that attached the keys to a tape measure that stretches for three feet and springs back when you let go of it. It was suggested that the murderer pulled the key under the crack of the door, locked it, and let go of it – so it would spring back to her waist. However, the key wasn't found on the chain, but inside the room on top of a keyboard. It couldn't have been tossed under the crack of the door into the room. So how should it have been done? The key should've been replaced with a duplicate on the chain that looked different from the original key of the door. Maybe with a plastic cover over its head. Or a label reading, "office," or something. The original key was right there in the room, which would make it unnecessary to try if any of the other keys fitted the lock in the door. Especially if they appear to be for locks outside of the house. I know it sounds disappointingly simple, but not as disappointingly simple as the actual solution.
Anyhow, this was a decent collection of stories with a dud at the end, but these collections are always fun to read and good stories to pick up your reading pace again after a short break. Yes, I'm still steady on schedule with being behind on all my reading.