11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011)
11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011) is the first of three made-for-television adaptations of novels by Keigo Higashino. Rikako Yuki (Hiromi Nagasaku) is a mystery novelist who’s suffering from writer’s block. After the breakdown of her marriage, she’s been growing closer to a man who works as a freelance journalist. Of late, however, his work has been drying up and debts have become more of a problem. In their last meeting, he tells her he thinks someone may be targeting him. When she asks why he feels threatened, he’s very noncommittal. When he calls her that night, she’s in a meeting with her editor, Fuyuko Hakio (Mari Hoshino) and feels unable to come out to meet with him. The following morning, she’s woken by the police. Her lover has been found dead in the river. It’s not certain whether this is an accident or suicide. Naturally, for all his problems, she doesn’t believe he would have committed suicide. She favours the idea it was murder, but has no idea who would have motive. She therefore decides to investigate. In part, she’s doing it to protect the reputation of her dead lover, but she also hopes it might help her break the writer’s block, i.e. give her a story to write. This latter reason makes her editor supportive and she decides to offer practical help as and when required.
When our now formally anointed amateur detective goes round to her ex-lover’s apartment, she finds his sister removing all his things. She begs everything connected with his writing, hoping to find some clue in his latest research. With everything packed, a carrier comes to take the boxes away, but this is interrupted by the arrival of a young lady. She identifies herself as a photographer who was working with the man on a story. She wants to recover some of her photographs. With everything already packed, it’s arranged she will come round to collect the material after it’s been delivered. Meanwhile, Fuyuko Hakio has arranged for our detective to visit her lover’s publisher. While there, there are hints of a boating accident about a year earlier in which her lover had injured his leg. This ties in with an entry in her lover’s diary which shows a meeting with Takuya Yamamori (Ken Ishiguro), the president of a large gym who had sponsored the boat trip which led to the accident. Ever quick off the mark, Fuyuko Hakio lines up an appointment but, when they arrive at the gym, there’s a delay. To fill in the time, they are given a special short session working out. The actual meeting with the director proves slightly inconclusive. When she arrives home, our detective immediately sees the boxes which were delivered have been opened. All her lover’s most recent material has been removed.
This sets us off and running fairly quickly through an interestingly complex plot. The only time it slows down is for a flashback showing exactly why our mystery author has writer’s block. As a mystery, it doesn’t seem to be going very far very quickly until we get to the last death when there’s a most interesting alibi for everyone who might have done it. It’s moments like this that make the author of the source novel, Keigo Higashino, so interesting. Up to this point, we seem to have a fairly routine serial killer who’s systematically killing off everyone connected with that boating accident (the title of the book/film is a reference to the eleven character message sent to each victim). But this last death not only fails to fit the pattern. It also seems to be “impossible” because there’s no doubt where everyone is at the relevant time. So this leaves me with good news and not-so-good news. My dislike of coincidence in a work of fiction is well documented in all these reviews. There are times when it’s unavoidable to get everything started off, e.g. that two people just happen to get on the same train, but in the main, I find the use of coincidence rather depressing. This time, there’s a clear explanation for the coincidence, so Keigo Higashino and his scriptwriter were aware of the problem. Ecept explaining it doesn’t make it any better. That said, this is one of these stories which deals with the grey in human relationships. In fiction, it’s always easier when the author decides to paint characters and situations in black and white. We readers or viewers are left with very simple moral choices about who to sympathise with. Here, very little is morally cut-and-dried. Indeed, the more you look at the picture which finally emerges as all the relevant people confess what happened, the less you want to make any decisions about it at all. I suppose that’s what makes 11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 a very good story and explains why our mystery writer will probably join in the conspiracy of silence.
For other work based on Keigo Higashino’s writing, see:
Broken or The Hovering Blade or Banghwanghaneun Kalnal or 방황하는 칼날 (2014)
Brutus’ Heart or Brutus no Shinzo or ブルータスの心臓 (2011)
Bunshin or 分身 (2012)
Galileo or Garireo or ガリレオ
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 1 and 2
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 3 and 4
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 5 and 6
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 7, 8 and 9
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 10 and 11
Galileo: The Sacrifice of Suspect X or Yôgisha X no kenshin (2008)
Midsummer Formula or Manatsu no Houteishiki or 真夏の方程式 (2013)
The Murder in Kairotei or Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken or 回廊亭殺人事件 (2011)
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 1 to 4
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 5 to 8
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 9 to 12
Platinum Data or プラチナデータ (2013)
Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 1 to 5
Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 6 to 11
White Night or Baekyahaeng or 백야행 : 하얀 어둠 속을 걷다 (2009)
The Wings of the Kirin or Kirin no Tsubasa: Gekijoban Shinzanmono or 麒麟の翼 ～劇場版・新参者～ (2012)
For a Galileo novel, see Salvation of a Saint.