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.
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.
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.)