Easily my least favorite of the series so far.
The timing for Minoru’s murder seems super tight. Like I said in a previous week the only reason to number the victims was if that order was wrong, and the only victims that could conceivably be swapped were Chika and Minoru, but… My idea was that Minoru had killed Chika and then Hiroshi killed Minoru when he got back, but I didn’t think Hiroshi had time to kill Minoru, undress him, carve the symbol into his stomach, move the cement blocks, open the grate, dump the corpse in, and move the cement blocks back. My impression was that “Hiroshi” came out of the experiment room really soon after he went in, so didn’t think that was really feasible, and it still seems extremely tight.
There was also the question/issue of what happened with the victims’ clothing. I don’t think I really buy this one. Yes, “the police are useless” is a staple of these kinds of stories, but they just overlook a clothing-sized pile of rags at the crime scene where they’re looking for missing clothes? What about the parts of clothing that aren’t made of cloth, like buttons, zippers, etc.? What happened to those?
(Edit: I also thought the thing with Chika’s shoes was bad. Like, really? Saikawa mentions multiple times how the shoes were the only reason he solved it, but he didn’t have them at the time. He really jumped from “the concrete was stolen” to “there must have been shoes in the concrete because the culprit must have been Hiroshi who planned to dispose of the sneakers Chika typically wears but Chika must have gotten new shoes that day (because, y’know, people are always getting new shoes in the middle of the day while working on experiments) that couldn’t be disposed of and this is the only reason the concrete could have been stolen and that is the only thing that could have been hidden in the concrete” with no additional proof? Really feels like Saikawa just jumped to the solution and filled in the blanks with the evidence rather than deducing the solution from the clues/evidence available. For instance–what if the culprit was Toshiharu, the person the police followed was Hiroshi, the room really had been locked with the mechanism found in the concrete, and Toshiharu stole the D3h concrete just to make the police think Chika’s shoes were in there and Hiroshi was the culprit? Without finding the D3h, there was no way to rule out tell those scenarios apart. Heck, even if Toshiharu had left the crime scene, he still could’ve just dumped the shoes in the concrete to “frame” Hiroshi! The shoes seem like such a bizarre piece of evidence to base your case on since they could be easily “falsified,” and Saikawa didn’t even actually have the shoes at the time he “figured it out”.)
The motive was whack. I guess it’s supposed to be, but… near the end Toshiharu talks about how Hiroshi was a perfectionist, but I wish we had actually seen that aspect of his personality during the book. I think he had the least characterization of the entire cast–even Fujii and Sagara seemed better-developed. Chika killing Satomi also seemed super brushed aside. Like, they were strangers, right? You have to be mentally unhinged to murder a stranger over nothing, which seems completely disconnected from what we knew of Chika.
I didn’t like how Toshiharu knew lots of things but said nothing, although it ties into his character, so I can kind of understand it here more than other times it happens in detective stories (but I still don’t like it). I’m also surprised/impressed how the gay one is the only one to come out of this mess unscathed, since this book was written in 1997 and that’s usually not what happens.
The title of the book also ended up underwhelming (which I normally don’t care about so much, but 笑わない数学者 was used in a really cool way!)
There are some cool and fun ideas here, but it feels like the details filled in to support them were just really, really sloppy.
Glad to see Saikawa and Moe’s relationship progress, though. The conversation at the end about Moe’s “proposal” was cute and hilarious.