"The word impossible does not enter into a detective's dictionary."- Inspector Stoddart (Annie Haynes' Who Killed Charmian Karslake, 1929)
The 55th volume of Case Closed, commonly referred to around the globe as Detective Conan, takes off where the previous volume left the reader hanging, which is on a deserted and isolated island where a TV special is being shot about teenage detectives. Predictably, a murderer is hiding among the group of promising sleuths.
In the previous volume, invitations were dispatched to the four corners of the Japanese islands and summoned some of the brightest young minds the land has offer: Natsuki Koshimizu from the South, Yunya Tokitsu from the North, Harley Hartwell from the West and Jimmy Kudo was supposed to represent the East, but since he can only attend as his alter ego, "Edogawa Rampo," his place was taken by someone else – namely Saguru Hakuba from volume 30. Not everything is what it seems and soon one of them is murdered under seemingly impossible circumstances.
Yunya Tokitsu is bludgeoned to death with a hammer in an upstairs room of the abandoned house and his body is propped up against the window, which was securely fastened from the inside. Same goes for the door. It's a classic locked room murder and a bludgeoning was definitely not part of the scheduled program, because, as Hartwell remarks, who has ever "heard of a reality show with a real-life body count," but the murderer is evidently playing a game with them – even planting such clues as the scent of lavender and toolboxes in every room. The locked room gimmick is not entirely original, but Aoyama added to the trick and executed it with excellence. I really liked the impossible crime aspect of the plot.
However, the best part of the story was its take on the so called "Fallible Detective," which showed the dire consequences of playing detective and getting it completely wrong. I also hope some of the detective characters will return at some point in the series.
The next story is a fairly minor one, covering only three chapters, but one that's of interest to Western readers of the series, because, for once, we got a shot at actually solving a language-based clue – which usually are based around kanji and the fairness of those stories are often lost in translation. Story begins when Doc Agasa, Conan and the members of the Junior Detective League return from a disappointing soccer match and strike up an acquaintance with a German, named Rutger Heinen, who is attacked a short time later in the parking lot. He suffers a serious head injury and identifies George as his assailant, but Conan figures there's a double meaning to his confused statement and correctly interprets the bilingual clue.
It's an English-German play-on-words and would have worked just as well in Dutch. So it's a pity the Dutch translation of this series never got past ten or so volumes, because this would have been an easy code cracker to translate into Dutch.
You can read the third and longest contribution to this volume as an origin story: Conan is reminiscing about a dark night, many years ago, when he sneaked into the school library with Rachel to show her there's no such thing as ghosts – except they do find a rather mysterious figure there. A shadowy person perked on top of a bookcase, reading a novel by Maurice Leblanc, who issues a challenge to the young detective and subsequently vanishes from the room. Jimmy is not impressed with his cheap trickery and called him "just a clumsy magician," but he still picked up the challenge. What follows is them crisscrossing around town in search for clues and trying to break several codes, which appear to have severely over-valued the mental capabilities of a still very young Jimmy Kudo.
The best part of the story was seeing many of the side-and background characters as they were before the series began, such as a slightly younger and darker haired Doc Agasa. I also appreciated how a previous story from one of the earliest volumes put me one the wrong track, because I expected a similar outcome in this story, but Aoyama cleverly used, what was perhaps the most predictable ending, as a false solution – which gave this story a satisfying ending.
However, Aoyama's love for parallel-characterization is in full swing in this story and added even more layers to the web of interconnecting and parallel relationships and personalities in the ever-expanding Detective Conan universe.
The volume ends with a filler story, consisting of only two chapters, in which Rachel is gripped by the fear that her mother is seeing another man and therefore will never give her father, Richard Moore, a second chance. Conan helps her figure out who this man might be, but the explanation is ludicrously simple and there's no excuse for not arriving at the answer before Conan does. It's one of the simplest mysteries I've ever come across in detective fiction. You can also find another example of Aoyama's parallel-characterization on the final page of this story.