Manga-ka: Matsuri Akino
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: May 2007
Synopsis: “Haruka and Masato’s episodes with Detective Taro Suzuki continue! To Haruka’s dismay, the gang must track down a cat burglar… that is actually of the feline persuasion. Next, Haruka, Masato and Suzuki are asked to solve a series of murders superstitiously linked to a cursed wisteria tree. But after that, mystery hits very close to home as Haruka’s mom finds a lover letter written by Haruka’s dad- to another woman!”
There are haunted drama rooms, wisteria spirits and a perhaps not-so-healthy dose of murders in this third volume of Kamen Tantei. Haruka and Masato, known by their penname, Taro Suzuki, continue to find inspiration for their mystery-writing career in everyday life, and as usual, there’s no shortage of crimes and strange phenomena that need solving by the two intrepid sleuths.
I’m not much of a cat person but that didn’t stop me from finding the first story in this book to be a sweet, short tale. Haruka and Masato set out to find a missing stray cat, one that’s made many friends around its neighbourhood. Suddenly, the cat started stealing from its benefactors then abruptly stopped coming around all together. It may not be a glamorous French-inspired cat burglar, but the chase is on none the less! While the ending was a tad predictable, after a chapter’s worth of building up this cat’s noble spirit, it was still charming and I enjoyed it.
Following that is an investigation into a supposedly haunted wisteria tree, and more importantly, a string of unsolved murders and accidents that happens on the anniversary of a legendary death in the village. Like some of the other stories in Kamen Tantei, there’s a supernatural element to this one, as well as in a later story when Masato sees a deceased student lingering in the building’s drama club room. What made the latter story entertaining however, wasn’t so much the ghost element (which played a pretty small role) but the amusing school play that takes place. I’m almost disappointed the story ends before the play could be finished, I’m still curious over how Haruka wrote the finale!
The final story in the book was a multiple-murder mystery. My thoughts on it are similar to those I had in previous volumes: mystery-fans or not, how are these people so desensitized to murder?! When I see a dead body, my first instinct is not to avoid calling the police in order to solve the mystery myself while being trapped on an island with the killer. No thanks. In this story’s defence, the ending surprised me and it did almost negate my thoughts on their desensitization to death. They’re all still kind of creepy in that regard, but this story didn’t end up being as much an example of it.
Volume three of Kamen Tantei is the thickest volume of the series so it offers several different stories for fans. Some mystery, misunderstanding and a dash of ghostly-interaction made it another good read. I continue to be head over heels for Matsuri Akino’s consistent and stylized artwork (though her fantasy series show her skill at its best), and the contrast between tomboy-Haruka and delicate-Masato never ceases to keep me entertained. Readers who’ve enjoyed previous volumes shouldn’t be disappointed.