Black Showman and the Murder in an Obscure Town

Black Showman and the Murder in an Obscure Town

Black Showman to Namonaki Machi no Satsujin / ブラック・ショーマンと名もなき町の殺人

AuthorKeigo HIgashino
ISBN 9784334913724
Page Count 439 pages
Size 13 x 18.7 cm (HxW)
First Edition November 2020
Category Mystery, Fiction
Publisher Kobunsha
Foreign Sales
  • Korean,
  • Simplified Chinese,
  • Traditional Chinese,
  • Vietnamese,
  • Thai,
  • Indonesian,
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese

Black Showman and the Murder in an Obscure Town

Black Showman to Namonaki Machi no Satsujin / ブラック・ショーマンと名もなき町の殺人


The year is 2021. While the whole world has been thrown into chaos by the Covid-19 crisis,
the disease is in remission in Japan. But it has not been completely eliminated and when the
number of cases surges, the authorities mull imposing a state of emergency.

Mayo Kamio, who is about to marry Kenta Nakajo, receives an urgent call from the police in
her hometown. Her father Eiichi is dead, most likely murdered. Mayo had been in two
minds whether to go back home for a junior high school class reunion. Her father had been
a teacher at her junior high school. As a favorite of the students, he too had been invited to
the reunion. Now Mayo is going back sooner than she ever expected.

Mayo’s parents’ house is in a small town about an hour and a half by train from Tokyo. With
an abundance of natural hot springs, the place was once a flourishing resort, but now there
are few visitors and it is empty and run down. A big project designed to revitalize the local
economy has been called off because of Covid-19. The project would have involved building
a theme park based on Psychic Labyrinth, a popular TV cartoon. The creator of the original
cartoon and the man behind the planned “Psy-Lab House” theme park were both among
Mayo’s classmates at junior high school. Coming so soon after her father’s death, Mayo has
mixed feelings about the project.

Her father, Eiichi Kamio, was found strangled to death in his garden. Rumor has it that he
was wearing a suit but no shoes. When Mayo goes to her parents’ house to assist with the
inspection of the crime scene, she sees that the house has been turned upside down. A

disturbance breaks out at the front door. Someone Mayo has not seen for a long time has
turned up: her Uncle Takeshi. Takeshi Kamio, who claims to be completely in the dark about
the murder, manages to manipulate the police while maintaining a high-and-mighty

Takeshi used to be a magician and once worked in Hollywood. Since returning to Japan, he
has been managing a small magic-themed bar in the Ebisu district of Tokyo called “Trap
Hand.” Takeshi was still in the United States when Mayo was born, so the two of them have
never lived in the same house together.

When Takeshi discovers that his brother Eiichi has been murdered, he is sure that the police
won’t keep him or Mayo abreast of the investigation’s progress. He assures his niece that he
will get to the bottom of what happened and asks Mayo to help him.

Eiichi was murdered shortly before the junior-high-school class reunion was due to take
place, so many of Mayo’s former classmates are able to come to his wake and funeral.
Among them are Katsugi Kugimiya, the manga artist behind Psychic Labyrinth; his self-
appointed manager, Ririka Kokonoe, who works in an advertising agency; Kodai Kashiwagi,
who was in charge of the proposed construction of Psy-Lab House; and Satoru Makihara,
who raised the funds for Psy-Lab House from investors.

These people have intertwining, sometimes conflicting interests. Each of them looked up to
their former teacher and went to him for advice. The police regard them all with mounting
suspicion. Takeshi keeps a close record of how they behave at the wake and the funeral. He

arranges for his niece to go out for drinks with them later. Before she leaves, he slips a
listening device into her handbag.

At the drinks party, the main topic of conversation is Psychic Labyrinth and its creator
Katsuki Kugimiya. He has been drawing manga comics since junior high school. The first
person he showed them to was always his friend Naoya Tsukumi. Tsukumi was a dominant
figure in the class, and it was thanks to his protection that Kugimiya, who was shy, did not
get bullied more often than he did. Mayo had a crush on Tsukumi, but she was also close to
Kugimiya. Sadly, Tsukumi died of leukemia in the third year of high school.

Takeshi realizes that Momoko, who was Mayo’s best friend at school, has separated from
her husband. (Momoko hid the separation not just from Mayo but from all her former
classmates.) Her estranged husband, Ryosuke Ikenaga, who was in a class above the girls at
school, attends Eiichi’s wake, but does not spend the night in their hometown, instead going
back to Tokyo the same day. Takeshi guesses that the dead Eiichi had been wearing a suit
because he had just returned from Tokyo, where he met with Ryosuke Ikenaga.

Takeshi also guesses that the murderer must have broken into Eiichi’s house wanting to
steal something. He must have known that Eiichi would be away that day, but probably
expected him to meet more people, including his daughter, while he was in Tokyo, not to
return the same day. When Eiichi came home to find an intruder in his house, things got out
of hand and the intruder ended up killing him. So who knew that Eiichi had gone up to

It is the day of the class reunion. After an uneventful get-together, Mayo follows Uncle
Takeshi’s instructions and assembles those of her former classmates most likely to be
involved in her uncle’s murder at the school. They are all bursting to know what will happen
next, when suddenly their old teacher Eiichi Kamio appears before them, exactly as in life.
(In fact, it is Uncle Takeshi, dressed up to look like his brother.)

Takeshi examines each person’s motives for killing Eichi and reviews their behavior at the
wake and funeral. Could it have been Kashiwagi, who took a financial hit from the
cancellation of the Psy-Lab House theme park project? Or Makihara, who was unable to look
the funeral portrait of the late Eiichi in the eye because the funds he raised for the project
included dirty money? Or Ririka Kokonoe, who has an unconvincing alibi for what she was
doing on the night of the murder?

At this point, Takeshi gets Kugimiya to read an essay aloud. It’s something that Tsukumi
wrote about Kugimiya when they were at junior high school, saying how happy he is to have
him as a friend. Kugimiya is shocked: as far as he is concerned, the essay should not exist.
And if it does exist, there must be another essay out there too: one in which Tsukumi
sketched out his ideas for the original Psychic Labyrinth in detail. This is the essay that
Kugimiya thought he stole on the night he accidentally encountered Eiichi, lost control and
killed him!

Takeshi plays Kugimiya a video he recorded at Eiichi’s funeral. It shows Kugimiya unable to
look at the portrait of the dead man. When he offers incense, he does so with his eyes

tightly closed. Kugimiya is stunned. He makes a run for it but is caught by the police. The
case has been solved.

Mayo reproves her Uncle Takeshi. If he had proof that Kugimiya had killed Eiichi, he really
should have shared it with the police. But as Takeshi explains, he had had no definitive proof
of Kugimiya’s guilt. The essay he used was just a rough draft that Tsukumi’s mother kept at
home, which he copied out, imitating Tsukumi’s handwriting. As for the funeral video, it
hadn’t really shown Kugimiya avoiding looking at the portrait of his dead teacher. Rather,
Takeshi doctored the video to make Kugimiya’s eyes appear to be tightly closed. In other
words, he had created a fake document and a fake video to flush the murderer out.

About the Author

Keigo HIgashino東野圭吾

Keigo Higashino (1958–) is arguably Japan’s biggest bestseller machine today. After graduating from college with a technical degree he went to work for an auto-parts maker as an engineer, but wrote fiction on the side and began submitting his work for the Edogawa Rampo Prize competition; he made his literary debut in 1985 when he won the prize for Hōkago (After-School Hours). With this success under his belt he turned to writing full-time, and by the mid-nineties his works were drawing considerable attention. When he won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award in 1998 for the novel Naoko (tr. 2004; original title Himitsu), it became a huge hit, and in the years that followed he produced one bestseller after another. After five previous appearances on the short list for the coveted Naoki Prize, he finally won in 2006 for The Devotion of Suspect X (tr. 2011); the English translation of this work was also nominated for an Edgar award in 2012. He is best known for the Detective Galileo series, to which Suspect X belongs, and the Detective Kaga series, set in Tokyo’s old shitamachi (low city) area and to which Shinzanmono (Newcomer; winner of a Konomys No. 1 ranking) belongs. Higashino also boasts an extensive and varied body of other works, including black-humor novels. The novel Namiya Zakkaten no kiseki (The Miracles of the Namiya General Store) received the Chuo Koron Literary Prize in 2012, Mugenbana (Dream Flower) the Shibata Renzaburō Award in 2013, and Inori no maku ga oriru toki (When the Curtain Falls on Prayer) the Yoshikawa Eiji Prize for Literature in 2014.

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