Monday 5 September 2016

The Moai Island Puzzle

Product Details

The Moai Island Puzzle by Alice Arisugawa is a Japanese mystery in the classic Golden Age vein which has recently been translated by Ho-Ling Wong into English and published by John Pugmire's excellent imprint Locked Room International. This edition benefits from an extremely interesting foreword by a leading exponent of the classic Japanese mystery, Soji Shimada.

The story is told by Alice Arisugawa, who is a university student and detective fiction enthusiast. He (yep, Alice is male) is a member of a small Mystery Club - and Ellery Queen and The Nine Tailors are referenced on the second page of the prologue, making it clear that the reader who is a Golden Age fan is in for a treat - a homage to the twisty murder mystery of days gone by.

The set-up is itself classical. Alice and his friend Maria make up a small party who travel to a tiny island off the coast of Japan in search of hidden treasure. The island is fictitious, but as the book's title makes clear, it is populated by a large number of moai, whose construction was influenced by the moai of Easter Island. And soon the moai themselves become clues to the puzzle.

Death has occurred on the island in the recent past, and soon crime returns. We are presented with a dizzying confection of cipher, locked room puzzle, and dying message clues as Alice and Maria try to work out what is going on. It's a well-constructed story with a satisfying pay-off, and there's even a mini-lecture on Dying Message Clues (in the tradition of Dr Fell's Locked Room Lecture). Great fun.


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