The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 1 and 2
The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) is based on the novel of the same name by Yusuke Kishi. The television series plays with character stereotypes to produce a very entertaining format in which three people combine not only to solve apparently insoluble cases, but also to achieve the right legal result. Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato) is one of these expensive lawyers who earns small mountains of money for every minute he spends working on complex corporate matters. At the beginning of the series, he acquires Junko Aoto (Erika Toda) as a personal assistant. As a lawyer in her own right, her first job is to go to take simple instructions from Kusakabe (Keisuke Horibe), legal advisor to a long-standing client. Not seeing any problem, she agrees to investigate a death. The police have classified it as a suicide because the body was found in a locked room. But Kusakabe is not convinced. She joins her boss who is inside a bank vault checking the contents of a special deposit. He has already shouted at her for agreeing to him doing something outside his comfort zone and for which he cannot bill his usual amount. She’s anxious and distracted. This triggers a moment of what she believes to be abstract curiosity, and she decides to find out what happens when she presses a button by the safe. Unfortunately, this closes the safe which is then on a time-lock. Since this is a Friday, that means the vault cannot open again until Monday morning. A security officer calls in Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono) who, to everyone’s amazement, opens the vault in seventeen minutes. Impressed by this, Junko Aoto not only persuades Gou Serizawa not to fire her, but also to employ Kei Enomoto as an expert to show how a locked room can be unlocked.
The scenario is beautifully contrived. All the windows were locked and could not have been tampered with. There’s no cellar, no air-vents, no secret passages, etc. The only door into the room was blocked by the seated figure of the deceased. Moreover, before his death, he had moved heavy items of furniture to make it difficult for the door to open, and had physically covered the door with a silk banner, securing it to the frame with one-hundred pins. When people break through one of the windows, they find the body with blow flies already hatching, i.e. he’d been dead about three days. The answer is very, very clever. What makes the episode so satisfying is that Kei Enomoto is one of these brilliant but socially inadequate people who will work away at puzzles, but find it very difficult to make friends. More importantly, he’s not at all interested in anything but the puzzle. In this, he’s similar to Galileo who stops working the moment the mechanism of the crime has been understood. In this series, that means Gou Serizawa has to join up the dots as the lawyer and get the right answer. This leaves Junko Aoto to run around to collect information, and encourage the two men to get on and do their thing.
The second episode sees Gou Serizawa seriously upset because someone has broken into his apartment and stolen his collection of collectable watches. He calls in Kei Enomoto who explains how it was one and how big the bill is going to be to make his apartment secure again. Since our lawyer has not yet paid the expert for his consultancy work, the expert waives the fee in return for Gou Serizawa consulting on another case. This time, Aiichirou Aida (Shido Nakamura) is the uncle of a young man who has apparently committed suicide in a locked room. The lawyer and Junko Aoto are asked to act as go-betweens to gain access to the room. In fact, there does prove to be a legal framework to investigate and this provides a motive should it be a homicide. Whereas the solution to the first episode turns on the forensic evidence, this is a very ingenious method for locking the room after the death. Again, this was completely novel. I pride myself on remembering how authors arrange locked room mysteries and these two episodes are impressively breaking new ground. I understood which piece of evidence was significant in the second, and came up with a way of taping up the door which was adjacent to that given. But the way the whole plot comes together is a delight to anyone who wants intellectual rigour to the solution of such cases. Here we see Yoshio Takazawa (Masahiro Takashima) as the science teacher father and his surviving daughter, Miki Takazawa (Mayuko Fukuda) watching each other like hawks in case there’s another death in the household. The fact Aiichirou Aida has spent time in jail for burglary also proves surprisingly relevant. Put all this together and this proves to be a genuinely exciting opening pair of episodes.
For reviews of other episodes, see:
The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 3 and 4
The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 5 to 7
The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 8 to end.