The X-Files: Case Closed, vol. 89 by Gosho Aoyama

The 89th volume of Gosho Aoyama's long-running Case Closed series begins, as so often, with winding up the story that started in the previous volume. Rachel, Serena and Masumi wanted to try their hands at an all-girl band and go to a sound studio to practice, where they bump into another amateur girl band, but quickly turns into a full-blown murder investigation – when the drummer of the other girl band is murdered. Strangled with a weapon that cannot be found on the closely searched and guarded premise. And, to make things even more difficult, the security camera had been partially covered with a phone on a selfie-stick at the time of the murder. Inspector Meguire humorously observed in the previous volume how every amateur sleuth in town is on hand to solve this case. Everyone from "the kid detective" (Conan) to "the barista detective" (Toru Amuro) and they make short, efficient work of this tricky murder case.

I ended my previous review with the remark the story could go one of two ways, pretty average or surprisingly good. Fortunately, the story ended up being mostly good with a plot hinging primarily on how the murderer simultaneously created an alibi and managed to spirit away the murder weapon. Only the tinkering with the motive somewhat cheapened the overall story a little bit (ROT13): gur niratre zbgvir vf n jryy-jbea, phygheny gebcr bs Wncnarfr qrgrpgvir svpgvba, juvpu V pna npprcg, ohg qvfyvxr guvf nggrzcg gb fcvpr vg hc ol univat gur zheqrere orvat jebat nobhg gur ernfba gurl qrpvqrq gb gnxr fbzrbar'f yvsr. Va guvf pnfr, gur zbgvir fhqqrayl orpnzr n pbagbegvba npg jurer abar jnf ernyyl arprffnel. That minor complaint aside, this is on a whole a pretty good story.

The background decoration on the cover already gave it away, but the second story is indeed a now out-of-season Christmas mystery story and a good one at that!

Doc Agasa takes Conan, Anita and the Junior Detective League to the department store, "all Christmassed up," to cash-in his coupon for a lunch at the gourmet restaurant at the top of the department store – before the kids scatter across the place to hunt for presents ("...texting me about presents they've found for themselves"). But while they're amusing themselves, the gourmet chef is stabbed and wounded outside the restaurant where they just ate. And the assailant ran down the staircase. Conan alerts the Junior Detective League to "get to the nearest staircase and keep an eye on anyone who emerges." The police detained three customers who were caught hurrying away, "all covered in sweat," but all have ready-made excuses. So the testimony of the Junior Detective League should settle the matter, however, when they regroup they all give a different description of the fleeing attacker ("all our eyewitnesses disagree").

Conan begins to reconstruct their movement, talk with other potential witnesses in order to prove that not only the three different descriptions were correct from the start, but "that all three testimonies point to the same person." Very well played and an excellent treatment of the one-of-three suspects-type stories that features regularly in this series, which this time felt completely fresh and invigorated. This is also how the Junior Detective League should be used.

The third story is something really special. Last year, I reviewed The Case of the Little Green Men (1951) by Mack Reynolds in which I remarked that the potential puzzles posed by flying saucers, space invaders and futuristic technology would make a nice change from haunted houses, dodgy seances and lingering curses – which normally haunt the impossible crime genre. A locked room mystery, impossible crime or simply a straightforward detective story presented as something straight out an episode of The X-Files is not entirely unheard of, listed half a dozen examples in the review ranging from Fredric Brown and Clayton Rawson to Q.E.D. and Jonathan Creek series, but the plotting potential of UFO sightings and alien interlopers remains largely untapped even today. I'm really glad I can add the third story from this volume to that very specialized list of (impossible crime) stories.

Hina Wada is a 17-year-old student and rival of Rachel in the school karate students, but now she come to ask her father, Richard Moore, to take on a most unusual case. She was out jogging in Haido Park with her karate club when she suddenly spotted a decidedly alien-looking craft in the sky ("the classic cigar-shaped model"), which she tried to pursue, but it was gone by the time she reached the top of the stairs. This is incidentally the exact same public park and stairs where the attack from vol. 84 and vol. 85 occurred. Richard Moore advertises his detective agency with the promise he'll "pursue any case to the end of the universe." So off to the park they go to investigate a potential alien presence in Japan ("Yoko Okina is playing a paranormal investigator in a new TV show... so dad's into aliens now"), but find an unexpected twist instead.

In the park, they come across Detective Chiba investigating a truly bizarre, dead end case. Kyogo Nakatsu was the editor of a UFO magazine whose body was found lying face down in recently pored concrete. There was, however, no concrete in his lungs. Nakatsu was suffocated before he fell into the concrete, but it gets even stranger. Next to the magazine editor was his freelance photographer, Yusuke Kuchiki, lying face up in the then hardened concrete. After the police cuts him out, Kuchiki swears "an alien came out of UFO, killed Nakatsu in mid-air, then got back in the UFO and flew away." Strangely enough, the hardened footprints in the concrete and absence of a murder weapon do not contradict his outrageous claim. No drag marks to suggests shenanigans with the body. The two sets of footprints are equally deep and both sets face the same direction ("...no sign that either person walked out"). Conan is not easily fooled, "this crime was committed by a human being," but how exactly was it was done? The solution is good and technically sound, but, where the story really stands out, is how effectively it put everything at work. From the UFO sighting and the suspect's claims of an alien killer to the tricks being employed, which resulted in an inverted detective story with a new take on the no-footprints impossibility that gave the murderer a rock-solid alibi. An alibi while only being an arm-length away. Brilliant stuff!

The last, full-length story from this volume is a continuation, of sorts, of the story from vol. 85 in which Shukichi Haneda, a shogi player, was on the verge of collecting all seven crown titles – seven national shogi championships of Japan. Shukichi Haneda handed his girlfriend, traffic cop Yumi Miyamoto, a sealed envelope with the request to not open it until he has collected all seven titles. Inside is a signed marriage registration to which she only has to sign her name. So, having won all seven titles, she can sign the paper, but she lost the envelope. Fortunately, Conan is on hand to help her finding it, which leads to mean, old caretaker of the building who a shogi fan. The old man finds her unworthy to marry a master of game, but gives her an opportunity to get it back by cracking a code he created. A fun enough story, but nothing particular good or outstanding. Obviously intended as a springboard to the next story.

The story ends with a reference to Shukichi Haneda's late brother-in-law, Koji Haneda, who was a master shogi and chess player before dying under mysterious circumstances during a chess tournament in the United States. Anita recognizes the name as she seen it on the same list with Conan's real name on it. Oh, the plot thickens! So the final chapter begins with Conan and Anita researching the case, which happened seventeen years ago, but they quickly become distracted by a much more recent murder case. That morning, the body of the president of a real estate company was found in the outside guesthouse of his estate holding a pair of novelty scissors Doc Agasa invented. But, as they begin to investigate, they begin to notice a resemblance to the murder of Haneda seventeen years ago. This promising story is going to be concluded in the next volume.

I think it's a fair conclusion to state vol. 89 is not only a huge improvement over the previous one, but can be counted as one of the strongest volume without a longer case, major event or crossover appearances in a long time. It almost read like a throwback to an earlier period in the series. Greatly enjoyed it! And very much look forward to beginning the countdown to vol. 100!


  1. It is amazing how the Detective Conan series is still very relevant until today. In Japan, currently Conan can be found literally everywhere. Granted it is part of promotions for the newest movie, but in every store, there is a high chance that you can find Conan-related goods in there. For example, Baskin Robbins and McDonald currently have special Conan-themed menu. Stationery shops has special section for Conan goods. Several magazines has Conan in the cover. There are lots of pop-up stores selling only Conan merchandises. Truly a legendary series. I think what makes Conan more popular than other similar series is the characters.

    1. Yeah, the mainstream success and certainly appeal in Japan can only be compared to Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie, but neither Holmes nor Poirot got their own Happy Meal toyline. Not everyone who reads or watches Detective Conan in Japan is a fan of detective fiction in general, but they still get to enjoy excellent mysteries like The Cursed Mask Laughs Coldly. They're doing something right over there.

  2. If you like the idea of impossible crimes as scientific-impossibilities as opposed to supernatural-impossibilities there's a few examples I think are notable.

    The Great Ace Attorney 2, Case 3 - "The Return of the Great Departed Soul" focuses on a man being falsely accused of committing murder during a presentation of his new teleportation machine, which by all accounts appears to work perfectly! In order to prove him innocent, you need to also disprove the validity of his teleportation machine, turning this into an impossible crime. The solution is an ambitious take on an old gambit, but the set-up is striking.

    In Detective Academy Q, there's a short series of stories focusing on various supernatural events, and one such story focuses on the appearance of UFO crop-fields. The solution isn't anywhere near the best of the series (it's in fact quite boring), but for the premise alone it fits what you're talking about, and it's probably one of the most innocent and sweet-hearted motives for committing an impossible crime ever.

    And you've actually reviewed one yourself, Richard Purtill's MURDERCON, which involves a murder by apparent raygun!?

    1. No, that's Mack Reynolds' The Case of the Little Green Men.

      It's not that I have a special affinity for impossible technology. Just a bit baffled at times that so little has been done with it compared to impossible crimes playing on the supernatural. An argument can be made that even those have not been fully explored, but the scientific/technological impossible crime story has been barely scratched. You would think the image of a trail of footprints coming to a deadstop in the middle of field and a witness claiming a UFO beamed that person up would be irresistible to locked room loving mystery writers, but practically nothing in nearly a hundred years.

      Anyway, thanks for the recommendations!

    2. I totally forgot, one of the (Japanese-only) Ace Attorney novels involves a case in which a woman is accused of murdering two people in two difference cases, 15 years apart. After the first murder, she steps into a time machine, and then vanishes! 15 years later, she re-emerges in the time machine and is accused of a second murder. The woman has appeared to have not aged a day and she claims to have time travelled and have zero memories of the last 15 years, at least very probably honest as proven by magical-lie-detector. Proving her innocent naturally involves finding the trick behind this supposed time machine.

  3. Huh, so they accidentally translated Koji as being Shukichi's brother-in-law? It's actually something else, but I guess the translator hasn't read later volumes yet (i.e., the JP word used can mean brother-in-law, but it is also not supposed to be a twist that it's the other meaning)