20 April, Rintaro Norizuki

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A ****** Murder By ******

On the eve of the two-week mark since the state of emergency was declared, I find myself in dire need of a haircut, having remained in a self-imposed isolation long predating the official decree. In an era of heightened urgency, please indulge my usual daily musings, as nonurgent as they may now seem. . . .
  G. K. Chesterton’s series of stories detailing the exploits of priest-detective Father Brown includes a short masterpiece entitled The Vanishing of Vaudrey. The Japanese translation by Yasuo Nakamura, available on the Sogensha Mystery Paperback imprint, is introduced with the statement, Behind the starkly unconventional humor and terror lurks a motive so necessary, it’s almost terrifyingly self-evidential. Although readers are apt to be distracted by the author’s pyrotechnics, exemplified under the mantle of humor and terror, it’s conversely the necessary motive outlined in the latter half of the work that constitutes the crux of the narrative’s chillingly dark bent. Although not directly indicative of the why in terms of motive, the work is certainly right up there alongside Theodore Sturgeon’s A Way of Thinking for its peculiar embodiment of the eye for an eye mentality.
  Unfortunately, the story is a slow burn, with the pivotal clue revealed only at the very end. It would be impossible for the reader to crack the case on his or her own, without the benefit of the last-minute reveal. I have always wished Chesterton had left a few more breadcrumbs. However, re-reading the work a few years ago, I had a new revelation of my own.






is squarely a frame narrative, established by a prologue in which the eponymous Father expounds at some length on his own methods of deduction. This prologue contains a slightly bizarre reference, which preemptively alludes to the culprit in The Vanishing of Vaudrey. I can tell you, people got considerably worked up about Gallup’s murder, and Stein’s murder, and then old man Merton’s murder, and now Judge Gwynne’s murder, and a ****** murder by ******, who was well known in the States. Although Chesterton may as well have broadcast the culprit’s name with a megaphone in his prologue, as a matter of professional courtesy, I have obscured the salient spoilers with asterisks here.
  Nonetheless, the preface is notable on a number of counts, beyond the premature exposition of the murderer’s name, alone. The descriptor ****** murder is itself quite crucial in filling out the narrative’s undeveloped aspects (which is to say, deficiencies). Extrapolating backwards from the information pertinent to analyzing the motive (the why done it?), this tidbit serves to reveal a good deal about the uniquely fraught relationship between the culprit and victim. Apologies if this all sounds incomprehensibly cryptic. When you read the story, you’ll understand what I mean.
  The prologue was ostensibly penned post facto, as a prefatory afterthought on the occasion when these four short stories were compiled into a single volume for publication. This makes the text all the more perplexing. After all, Chesterton was known as the prince of paradox. Why would he self-sabotage, so to speak, and intentionally spoil his own conceit? Perhaps by revealing the culprit out of the gate, he was effectively throwing his readership of die-hard detective aficionados off the scent, and imploring them to seek an ulterior, unexpected motive. If you feel inclined to pick up a copy of The Vanishing of Vaudrey for the first time, I suggest that you pay extra close attention to the prologue, and see if you can crack the motive behind this meticulously stylized why done it mystery. (Don’t worry; I doubt anyone will be able to spot the murderer, even with this hint.)

Translated by Daniel González/Arranged by TranNet KK

Rintarō Norizuki
Born in Shimane Prefecture, 1964. Graduated from Kyoto University Faculty of Law. While at university, he joined the Kyoto University Whodunit Mystery Novel Writing Club. Made his literary debut with



(A day in the school life). Won the 55th Mystery Writers of Japan Award for Best Short Story for




(Urban legend puzzle) in 2002, and the 5th Honkaku Mystery Award for Best Fiction for




(The gorgon’s look) in 2005. His other works include




(Find the king),



(Knox’s machine), and





(The news of Rintarō Norizuki).




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