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review 2017-09-23 06:14
Death Note: Another Note: The Los Angeles BB Murder Cases by NisiOisin, original concept by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, translated by Andrew Cunningham
Death Note: Another Note - NisiOisiN

I’ll start this review off with a warning: the book assumes you’ve read (or watched) most of Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. I’m going to be writing this review with the same assumption - there are major spoilers for the series from here on out.

Okay, so this book stars L and Naomi Misora. If you don’t remember who Misora is, she was the FBI agent who began investigating Kira after her fiance, FBI agent Raye Penber, was killed by him. The book’s narrator is Mello, who has decided to write down some of L’s cases after his death, starting with this one. You know, in between hunting down Kira or something.

Anyway, Misora is trying to decide whether to resign from the FBI after a particular event that got her suspended when she receives an email from her fiance that actually turns out to be from L. L wants her help with a case he’s currently working on: the Los Angeles BB Murder Cases, also known as the Wara Ningyo Murders or the L.A. Serial Locked Room Killings. There have have been three murders so far and, due to the murderer’s pattern, L believes there may yet be a fourth and even a fifth, unless he and Misora can find the killer first. L sends Misora to be his eyes and hands, although it’s not long before she’s joined by Rue Ryuzaki, a suspicious and strange private detective who has a habit of crawling around on all fours and eating disgustingly sweet snacks.

I went into this feeling somewhat hopeful. My one previous experience with NisiOisin’s writing was Kizumonogatari: Wound Tale, which I loathed, but this was a Death Note prequel starring one of my favorite characters from the series, L, so it was possible it would be better. I figured I’d be happy if NisiOisin delivered a competent mystery that stayed true to L as a character and didn’t include multi-page panty descriptions.

Panties showed up once but weren’t described in detail. L was okay, although he occasionally came across as a little pathetic. There was one part where he seemed to be fishing for compliments from Misora, and I found myself wondering how old he was in this story. I spent a good chunk of the book a little annoyed with him, because it seemed like he’d arranged for Misora to “help” him primarily so that he could get a chance to look cool around a pretty woman. Thankfully, the situation wasn’t quite what I thought it was, although that wasn’t revealed until fairly late in the book.

As for Naomi Misora… I don’t recall having any particular opinions about her when I read the original series and watched the anime, but NisiOisin managed to make me dislike her somewhat. Some of that might have been the translator’s fault - for example, Misora’s word choice when she came up with an idea that she realized wasn’t very good: “no, that was retarded” (124). But Misora’s rant when L asked her what she thought about Ryuzaki was definitely all on NisiOisin:

“‘Creepy and pathetic, and so suspicious that if I weren’t on leave, I’d move to arrest him the moment I laid eyes on him. If we divided everyone in the world into those that would be better off dead and those that wouldn’t, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’d be the former. Such a complete freak that it amazes me he hasn’t killed himself.’” (55-56)

I have a feeling that NisiOisin intended readers to find this humorous, Misora accidentally and very pointedly insulting L, but instead it made Misora seem horrible and cruel.

The mystery itself left me feeling torn. The puzzles the killer left behind were incredibly contrived, and I had trouble believing in the solutions Misora and Ryuzaki came up with, several of which relied heavily on what I felt were unfounded assumptions. Three murders didn’t give them much data to work with when trying to figure out the murderer’s patterns, and their justification for the date when the fourth murder would occur was, in my opinion, particularly weak.

According to Wikipedia, one of the things NisiOisin is known for is creating characters with extremely strange names. As amusing as it was, I wish he’d reined that tendency in here, because it made the characters seem like idiots. The police noted that each crime scene had Wara Ningyo dolls (similar to voodoo dolls?) nailed to the walls, that the murderer had painstakingly wiped away all fingerprints, and that they were all “locked room” murders, but they couldn’t find any similarities between the victims. The first victim was a 44-year-old male freelance writer named Believe Bridesmaid. The second was a 13-year-old girl named Quarter Queen. The third was a 26-year-old female bank clerk named Backyard Bottomslash. Although the characters considered the possible implications of the alliteration in the victims’ names, not a single person commented on how strange those names were and whether that strangeness might be part of the killer’s pattern.

The book’s pacing was terrible, and the tone should have been tense, considering there was only a short amount of time before the next murder, but NisiOisin kept peppering the story with awkward little jokes. My attention started to wander but was captured again when it was revealed that this case had a closer connection to L than I originally thought. The final revelations did take me by surprise, but I was also annoyed by them. It boggled my mind that a killer who was supposedly so smart couldn’t come up with a better way to beat L in a battle of wits. Even if he’d succeeded, he’d still have lost.

Not only would he have been dead, he’d never have been 100% sure that L couldn’t figure out what he’d done.

(spoiler show)


It was a quick read the offered a few nice tidbits for fans of Death Note in general and L in particular, but the tone and pacing could have been so much better, and the final revelations somehow managed to be both surprising and disappointing. I have one Death Note novel left, Death Note: L, Change the World, and I hope it turns out to be better than this one.

Extras:

Includes one page of color artwork by Takeshi Obata and a page of black-and-white artwork before each chapter.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2017-08-08 21:24
'The Hours' well spent
The Hours - Michael Cunningham

This short book was winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1999 and takes as its start point the graphic suicide of Virginia Woolf. The tragic loss of one of the leading lights of the 'Bloomsbury Group' in 1941, finally succumbing to the fatal depths of recurrent depression at the age of just 59, conferred a profound loss on the cultural health of a nation, yet posterity has rightly lauded the author's legacy. In his homage to Woolf, Michael Cunningham interweaves the thoughts and experiences of three female characters: Mrs Woolf (Virginia), Mrs Brown (Laura) and Mrs Dalloway (Clarissa), Located in 1923 London, 1949 L.A. and 1990s New York , respectively. Virginia is mulling over ideas for the fictional character yet to inhabit her most famous novel, while Clarissa and Laura are spending a day in preparation for a celebration in their respective times and place. Successive chapters rotate between the discrete storylines  culminating in an unusual cross-over in the end, but the snapshots also draw on some common themes, which beset each of the protagonists, irrespective of the prevailing social norms in 'their' time.

 

What rescues the book from a sense of cerebral indulgence on the part of the writer though, is the moving beauty of the language and as the reader quaffs down the pages like a smooth, warming liqueur, it is good to savour the interplay of quite sumptuous tones. It also remains consistent with the 'stream of consciousness' storytelling deployed by Woolf in 'Mrs Dalloway' (published 1925), albeit this example is not entirely satisfying, given its fragmentary nature and slightly bitter aftertaste

 

Still, the takeaway theme for me from this book is the individual capacity, indeed responsibility, to create and shape one's life, within the context of the prevailing time and to weigh the personal sacrifices and gains that attend our choices. Some of the metaphors were also interesting, for example, some mistakes such as cake-making are retrievable, others require stoicism to deal with the consequences, but when it comes down to it, life and love is fundamentally fragile...and fickle.

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review 2017-05-22 15:30
"The Trout", by Peter Cunningham
The Trout: A Novel - Peter Cunningham

This is a well-crafted crisply written, gripping story of one man search for the crucial secret locked in his memory since childhood and the ability of whole societies to deny the evidence of their eyes.

When writer Alex Smyth receives a letter at his home in rural Bayport Ontario containing only a fishing lure, unsettling childhood memories are triggered. Alex thinks he may have killed another boy when he was seven, he then decides to return to Ireland to seek answers from his father.

Alex is the narrator and recounts events from both a child’s and an adult’s perspective. His voice is gentle almost mesmerizing it is easy to adapt to his tone. As the tale unfolds, the author artfully spins several stories at once: Ex: when Kay, Alex’s wife, alone has doubts about their marriage and has fears of a stalker we are into some interesting interludes.

It takes time to connect with the characters but when several layers of tension are introduced and memories crisscrossed with the present they immediately become accessible. The short chapters and a credible narrative keep the pages turning and the pacing holds up to the tension beautifully when it picks up. Serving simply as a metaphor and to provide a connecting thread in this delicate and powerful tale, the author has intercepted his narrative with brief and cogent paragraphs with the art of fly-fishing and its pursuit of the trout. (Interesting).

I had a hard time getting into this psychological thriller and staying focused during the initial section, it drags too much as it recounts the couple peaceful existence in Canada till mid-way threatened by Alex’s visions everything meshed and I understood where the author was leading. From then on I was hooked.

The last half of the book reveals the monstrous crime that took place in a country populated by good people who are conscious of the truth but prefer to leave it deep beneath the surface till one day they uncover the truth….it burst to light like the beautiful trout....

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss

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review 2017-04-30 06:28
Benny Uncovers a Mystery
Benny Uncovers a Mystery - Gertrude Chandler Warner,David Cunningham

If I were a fan when Warner was first publishing the series I think I would have been disappointed with this ending. The mystery is OK, some parts are pretty easy to guess, but some of the mystery is pretty subtle. But there's no resolution with the characters. It's just like any other Boxcar Children book. I guess that made it easy to continue the series.

 

I read a mix of the series (original and continuation) as a kid, and I remember liking them. I'm trying to get the nine-year-old to read some, but she's not that interested (even though I keep telling her they're mysteries and she likes mysteries). Oh well.

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review 2017-04-30 06:22
Bus Station Mystery
Bus Station Mystery - Gertrude Chandler Warner,David Cunningham

The mystery was so obvious to me that I kept wondering why everyone was confused for ~90% of the book. I remember Benny Uncovers a Mystery (#19) being a lot more mysterious when I was a kid though, so the intended audience of the Boxcar Children novels might enjoy this one.

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