Slings and Arrows: Q.E.D. vol. 35-36 by Motohiro Katou

The first of two stories from Motohiro Katou's Q.E.D. vol. 35, "Two Suspects," is a surprisingly uncomplicated, straightforward case of burglary gone wrong when the owner of a moving company, Yoshimitsu Ryozo, discovers a burglar in the manager's office – working on the safety deposit box. So the burglar takes a crowbar to the owner's skull and leaves him seriously wounded. Yoshimitsu Ryozo is either unable, or unwilling, to identify his attacker, because due to his own past "often hired those with criminal backgrounds." Only viable suspects are two of his staff members, Saburo Mikawa and Kurose Yasumasa, who have several counts of theft and assault on their record.

So a simple, but tricky, case handled by Inspector Mizuhara's subordinate, Asama Kiyori, who's very keen to impress his superior. Naturally, Sou Touma and Kana Mizuhara come along to drop by something for Detective Sasazuka and Kiyori is surprised when he asks Touma's opinion on the burglary ("why are you asking that stuff to a kid?"). Sasazuka explains Touma is "a genius who is respected by Inspector Mizuhare" ("so... the inspector has some like that?"). Kiyori asks Kana Mizuhara to rope in Touma to help him solve the case. After all, if the subordinate bungles an investigation, it reflects poorly on his superior, i.e. her father.

While there are only two suspects, they both have a financial motive and their alibis "only supported by someone very close to them." Just having two, or three, suspects can make things a lot more difficult and complicated than an entire swarm of suspects, which these manga detective series regularly demonstrate. Touma is not easily fooled and points out that the one difference between the suspects is "your impression of good or bad with regards to their circumstances." Logically untangles that neat, knotted little problem. A very minor, but solid, story that curiously leaves one small plot-thread unresolved.

The second story, "Christmas Present," sounds out-of-season, but the December holiday is only a small, unobtrusive decoration to a fun parody of the theatrical mystery – even poking fun at the shin honkaku-style locked room puzzles. This story centers on two of Sakisaka High School clubs. Firstly, the Drama Club whose president is a brilliant, promising young actor, Shiroi Kentarou, but despite his acting skills ("...almost at par with the professionals") is the reason why the club is bleeding members ("...he's clumsy as hell"). Always making some thoughtless mistake leading to one members, after another, giving up on the club and now they're given an ultimatum: get new members after the Christmas show or get disbanded! The notorious Detective Club comes to the rescue, but their president, Enari "Queen" Himeko has one condition. It has to be a mystery play. Not that they have script ready, but Detective Club has that covered as well, which means turing to Sou Touma and Kana Mizuhara for help. Touma is tasked with penning a script on the spot. Which he does.

So, of course, the collaboration between the two clubs is not exactly going smoothly and even is threatened to be canceled all together, but, for me, the highlight is the trick Touma's dreamed up for the mystery play, Murder at the Pentagon House. The play is about a murder committed in a small, pentagon-shaped house with the door and windows locked from the inside. Sure, the locked room-trick is completely tongue-in-cheek ("W-wow, such a trick exists?! No wonder it's called Pentagon House"), but nonetheless quite clever and original. More importantly, the trick can be easily used in an actual comedy mystery play. A fun, cheeky send-up of the theatrical mystery and shin honkaku impossible crime tales.

"Kurogane Villa Murder Case" is the first of two stories from Q.E.D. vol. 36 and brings Sou Touma to the Kyoto to meet with Jinnai Ryozaburou.

Jinnai Ryozaburou is a lecturer at K University whose mentor, Yanosuke Kurogane, hanged himself at his home five days previously and nobody knows why. Professor Kurogane lectured on theoretical physics for thirty years and renowned as a great researcher, but had treated a promising assistant professor badly. Namely trying to take credit. Karasuma Renji is viewed by the police as a person of interest in their ongoing investigation, but he's "impossible to handle" and tries to make himself look suspect ("this detective is an idiot"). A second murder happens when all of Professor Kurogane's friends and associates gathered at his home to mourn him. One of his potential successors is hit with an arrow while walking down an outside, roofed corridor that poses something of a problem, because long corridors like that were used for archery competitions during the Edo period – where the trick lies in distance combined with the low ceiling. A target at the end of the corridor with a low ceiling overhead limits the angles in which an arrow can be loosened. So the murder is an impossible one as "it'd require the power of a rifle" and "the aim was even a bit off..." On top of that, Karasuma Renji alluded before the murder to Zeno's Arrow Paradox.

Touma gives a clue to the solution to Kana, "the key to solve this case is why did the culprit choose an arrow as the weapon," but the arrow-trick should have been offered as a false-solution – a trick that sounds nice enough in theory. But would simply not work in practice. No matter how skilled the archer who shoots the arrow. Even if it can be done as described, there's no way it can be accurately aimed to hit a fatal spot. And, no, I don't think (ROT13) n funqbj frra sebz n guveq-sybbe ebbsgbc, cbxvat bhg sebz gur pbirerq oevqtr nqwnprag gb pbeevqbe, vf rknpg rabhtu gb uvg gur ivpgvz evtug va gur arpx. A pity as I like archery-themed detective stories of which there are only a scant few. On the other hand, the solution to the murder-disguised-as-suicide of Professor Kurogane had a much simpler, elegant solution. That murder is a quasi-impossible crime with the question being how the killer managed to enter and leave the house without being seen or leaving footprints in the snow outside the study. A mixed bag of a story.

The second and last story from this volume, "Q & A," is one of those unorthodox, character-oriented puzzles drawing on Touma's time as an MIT student in the United States.

Glass Rosfeller is an American banker who helped Touma securing research grants, when he was still studying abroad (see previous reviews), but Rosfeller intends to retire and wishes to hand over the business to one of his four children, Ian, Walter, Freya and Wood. So has an unusual favor to ask from Touma. Rosfeller wants him to select the most suitable one to succeed him and in order to do so has them gathered in a luxurious villa, on an island, in the middle of Aegean Sea. Touma brings along Kana and his younger sister, Yuu Touma. Only other people present on the island is the caretaker and his son. This all appears to be conventional enough and most readers will probably expect someone to be murdered, likely under seemingly impossible circumstances, but what happens is a series of minor and more serious incidents. There's a blackout. The gas and warm water gets turned off. The son of the caretaker is injured and finally an explosion. This short, strange series of events is retold several times from the perspective of everyone present on the island. Every time one of these incidents happened, they were all scattered around the villa or the island. A story with a really, really razor-thin plot, but Katou deserves credit for how he handled it and making it feel more substantial than it actually is. So not entirely without interest, but a minor and unmemorable entry in the series.

Obviously, vol. 36 is on a whole weaker than vol. 35 with "Christmas Present" being the standout of the two collections and the first story, "Two Suspects," standing as a solid, no-frills detective tale. "Kurogane Villa Murder Case" is not a bad story, but the arrow-trick is hard to credit and "Q & A" is one of those stories I've completely forgotten when getting to the next two volumes. Still an enjoyable read overall. You can probably expect the next Q.E.D. review by the end of the month.


  1. Agreed on the "Kurogane Villa Murder Case". I like the setting and the discussion on the paradox is interesting, but the solution is indeed hard to swallow. I do like the next two volumes. The last case of vol. 38 is an unconventional math-themed mystery. But I still think it is an interesting story.

    1. Yeah, the setting and discussion of the arrow paradox really sets up expectations for the solution. A shame it failed it fell wide of the mark.

  2. I'll admit, I've struggled with Q.E.D. Even following your and other people's "Best-Of" lists, I've been left pretty cold on Q.E.D..

    "Afterimage of Light"'s telepathy trick was both too technical to be satisfying and something I've seen done better elsewhere. The actual locked-room mystery was pretty underwhelming... It's just a somewhat aesthetically interesting spin on a pretty basic and obvious trick.

    Fading of Star Map had an interesting premise for what might've been an alibi trick, but they don't do much of anything interesting with it.

    Secret Blue Room is basically exactly what it'd have to be.

    The Distorted Mystery is an okay inverted mystery, but I think the smoking Chekhov's Guns are too obvious, though I though the Queen-ian disappearance was very neatly done, even if I prefer my personal theory of gur xvyyre uvqvat gur obql va gur pryyb naq hfvat zhygvcyr pryy cubarf fb gung gur obql qbrfa'g pnhfr vagresrerapr jvgu gur fbhaq.

    I do like how hard they tease you with gur pryyb pnfr orvat ynetr rabhtu gb uvqr n crefba, bayl sbe vg gb or rzcgl.

    So I enjoyed this one, but only just barely.

    I just didn't find Serial John Doe very interesting...

    So I'm not quite sure what's wrong with me. Everyone I know is heads over heels for this series, but I just can't seem to glomp onto it at all.

    1. First of all, who the hell put “Serial John Doe” on their best-of list? I know the series can be unconventional, but not that consistently unconventional to have attracted a wandering post-modernist. Anyway, there's such a thing as personal taste and this series just doesn't connect with you. It happens. You can always try C.M.B., which apparently takes a very different approach than Q.E.D. So maybe you'll find that one more to your taste. I'm close to sampling the first two volumes and already fear I'm going to like it even more than this series.

    2. "First of all, who the hell put “Serial John Doe” on their best-of list?"

      Would you believe me if I told you one of them actually WAS a wandering post-modernist, who doesn't even particularly like "mysteries" but primarily reads the Berkeley-ian deconstructions of the genre?

      As it happens, I also engage with a lot of post-modernist media too, albeit post-modernist media that's on the more popular side of things (Everything Everywhere All At Once as my favorite movie, a post-modernist flouting of genre in gung-ho, radical "nothing is sacred, and that's great" philosophy, and BoJack Horseman as a favorite show, which meta-textually blurs the lines between genres to literally turn "this is not a sitcom" into a meta-reflexive theme about trauma and the recovery process) but I tend to not like post-modernism in my mysteries. With anything else, I'm open to experimentation, but in my mysteries all I want is an ingenious plot and a clever trick, and I'll only take post-modernism if it gives me an ingenious plot and a clever trick, dammit!

      I'll check out C.M.B.! How does it differ from Q.E.D exactly?

    3. I was kidding about the wandering post-modernist!

      I understand the main difference is Q.E.D. is a mystery series centered around math and science, while C.M.B. is a mystery series exploring archaeology, history, culture, etc.

  3. Hi, thanks for your review, I look forward to it every month. I agree with your view on the 'arrow resolution', it's too far-fetched for my taste. However, I'm interested to know what particular thread you felt was unresolved in the 'Two Suspects' case?

    Also, coming back to the subject of arrows, since you said you particularly like cases that involved archery, might I recommend the last four chapters of a manga called Gordian Knot - https://mangadex.org/title/e62e3b45-b08b-4a75-b8bb-6f4ecfbdf16b/gordian-knot

    The series is mostly standalone, so you can read the last four chapters without having to read from the beginning. I'll admit it's not a particularly great case, but the archery element is pretty cool. Take a look when you can.

    1. Wow this is the first time I have seen someone mentioned 'Gordian Knot'. It is a very niche series. I like it, though it is more of a 'logic-game' genre more similar to Spiral, Liar Game, Kaiji.

    2. I know of it because I was part of the team that scanlated it, as well as Q.E.D. 😄

    3. "However, I'm interested to know what particular thread you felt was unresolved in the 'Two Suspects' case?"

      The matter of Kurose's dead wife. Touma explains why the death of his wife is irrelevant to this robbery case, even if he actually killed her, but it's an odd thing to leave dangling unresolved in a detective story.

      Thanks for the Gordian Knot recommendation! If those four chapters can be read as a standalone, I'm definitely going to take a look at it. Sounds like a fun, little one-off to do between Case Closed and Q.E.D..

  4. Sorry to double-post, but I totally forgot to mention that I had an archery-themed inverted mystery short story in a draft I wrote up for an abandoned Meiji Guillotine-esque short story collection project I was working on, since you mentioned being interested in archery-themed mysteries. However, I'll admit I'm not super proud of the trick (hence why it's an abandoned project), and I'll likely never finish it, so just to get the idea out there I'll include a ROT13 summary of the concept. Since you're probably the only person I'll find who specifically cares about archery mysteries.

    Gur frg-hc vf qryvorengryl hapunenpgrevfgvpnyyl fvzcyr va n pbyyrpgvba bgurejvfr ybnqrq jvgu tvzzvpxl frg-hcf naq vzcbffvoyr pevzrf. Jr sbyybj gur cynaavat naq pbzzvffvba bs n pevzr ol na nepure, jub, nagvpvcngvat gurve gnetrg, gurve grnpure, jbhyq ragre gurve ebbz ng n erthyne gvzr, sverq na neebj, zvffrq gur gnetrg naq "nppvqragnyyl" fubg gur ivpgvz guebhtu uvf jvaqbj. Fb, va guvf pnfr, gur xvyyre vf xabja, ohg gur qrgrpgvir vf gnfxrq jvgu cebivat gurl pbzzvggrq gur pevzr ba checbfr.

    Naq, bs pbhefr, gur fgbel raqf jvgu gur phycevg orvat pnhtug onfrq ba n punva bs qrqhpgvbaf ortvaavat jvgu gur neenatrzragf bs gur cenpgvpr gnetrgf, naq pbasrffvat gb gurve zheqre.

    Ohg gur znwbe gjvfg, naq gur jnl guvf fgbel cynlf vagb gur birenepuvat aneengvir, vf gung gur svany fgbel bs gur pbyyrpgvba erirnyf gung gur fvghngvba nf jr xabj vg vf jvyqyl zvfthvqrq. Gur "vairegrq zlfgrel" vf va ernyvgl n Orexryrlna snxr vairegrq zlfgrel va juvpu rira gur "phycevg" gurzfryirf jnf snyfryl pbaivaprq bs gurve bja thvyg.

    Va ernyvgl, gur crefba gurl fubg guebhtu gur jvaqbj jnf abg gur vagraqrq ivpgvz, ohg gur "Znfgrezvaq" bs gur aneengvir. Beqvanevyl gur vagraqrq ivpgvz unf n fpurqhyr gung oevatf gurz va naq bhg bs gur ebbz ng cerqvpgnoyr, ohg ba guvf qnl, gur ivpgvz arire npghnyyl YRSG uvf ebbz, orpnhfr bs na neenatrzrag ur unq jvgu "Gur Znfgrezvaq", juvpu ZZ jnf qrfcrengr gb xrrc frperg, orpnhfr gur gehr checbfr oruvaq uvf ivfvg vf gung *fbzrguvat nobhg gur nepuvgrpgher bs gur ebbz snpvyvgngrq n zheqre pbzzvggrq va n yngre fgbel*. Hasbeghangryl, gubhtu, gur snpg bar bs gur nepuref unq cynaarq gurve bja zheqre naq vanqiregragyl fubg Gur ZZ va gur nez zrnag gung...

    Crbcyr rkcrpgrq gb svaq gur nepurel vafgehpgbe fubg jvgu na neebj. Gur nepurel vafgehpgbe jnf arire fubg jvgu na neebj. Jura gurl nyy pnzr ehfuvat vagb gur ebbz gb qvfpbire gur ivpgvz, vg'q or ab terng rssbeg gb qvfpbirel gung ur jnf va gur ebbz, rivqraprq ol gur fubg gung UR jnf gur bar jub jnf fubg ol gur neebj ynhapurq guebhtu gur jvaqbj.

    Gurersber, va beqre gb frpher na nyvov, cebgrpg gur frperpl bs uvf cerfrapr va gur ebbz, naq jvcr bhg n cbgragvnyyl ceboyrzngvp jvgarff, gur ZZ qrpvqrq gb evc gur neebj bhg bs uvf bja nez naq fgno vg vagb gur purfg bs gur nepurel vafgehpgbe, nyybjvat gur "phycevg" gb snyfryl oryvrir gurve uncunmneq zheqre cybg jrag bss jvgubhg n uvgpu, naq hfvat gurve "pbasrffvba" nf n pbairavrag rkgen ynlre va gur vzcbffvovyvgl bs n yngre vzcbffvoyr pevzr. Nsgre nyy, "bayl bar crefba jrag vagb gur ebbz", naq vs gung bar crefba jnf gur qrnq nepurel vafgehpgbe, gura gur ZZ pbhyq arire unir orra gur bar gb ragre gur ebbz! Be, va bgure jbeqf, gur cbffvovyvgl bs gur ZZ rkcybvgvat gur ebbz gb pbzzvg uvf zheqre vf jevggra bss gur obbxf ragveryl!

    1. An arrow is one of those gentleman's weapons of choice like dueling pistols or a crystal chandelier, but yes, not even fans and collectors of sports mysteries seem to care all that much about archery mysteries. Not that there's much to care about. Anyway, you should consider just writing that collection, publishing it and see where it lands. I mean, you have already done half the work (plotting). And it's not a hanging offense, if you don't produce a stone cold classic on your first swing. That comes later.

    2. I appreciate the encouragement, but even if I gave up the want to write a stone-cold classic, I do have better, more clever, and more original ideas on the backburner I'd probably want to get out as a benchmark before I'd ever dream put this one out, so we'll see what the future holds I s'pose!