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The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 8 to end

September 7, 2014 Leave a comment

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The eighth episode in The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) has Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato), our enthusiastic lawyer, trapped into investigating the case of an accidental death with a manga artist/author dead in her own studio — he appears on a television chat show and is ambushed. He further piles misery on himself by announcing this is a murder before the expert is anywhere near the solution. All the doors and windows were locked, but this is not a locked room mystery because of the locks. In fact, several people had duplicate keys and could have entered. Except the owner of the house, having seen neighbours victimised by burglars, got a big dog that barks when anyone it does not know tries to come on to the land around the house. So the dog did not bark at any time during which the forensic analysis says the death occurred, i.e. apparently no-one entered or left the house. Except that would not explain the beer. . . It’s so refreshing when the first real clue is beer. Anyway, it’s obvious whoever did it not only had a key but threw drugged food to the dog over the hedge. With the dog incapacitated, the person with the key can now come and go without any of the neighbours hearing the barking. Except there’s then a break in at the house and not only is the dog silent but it’s also completely unharmed. So why would anyone come back into the house? And why were none of the collectible watches stolen and, hey, why has one of those watches stopped working? There’s also the fascinating way in which Japanese local authorities discourage young people from congregating in the civic parks after dark to consider.

Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato)

Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato)

The ninth episode has our lawyers called in to advise a firm on an international deal only to find this is probably a front for the yakuza. It seems one of the senior executives was found dead in his office, so the president of the company calls in Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono) to improve the security system. He installs multiple locks on the only door and a new camera system but, almost immediately, another employee is found shot inside this room. Obviously this looks bad for a firm doing its best to appear legitimate, so the team is “encouraged” to take on the case to establish how the deaths occurred. For once, I actually got a part of the answer right, but the bigger picture is very nicely rounded out with touches that never occurred to me. Indeed, the one place where the evidence can be found is pleasingly just out of sight all the time. Gou Serizawa does his best not to be intimidated despite the fairly obvious gangster backgrounds of some of the employees. But Enimoto is strangely unmoved, even when threatened.

Junko Aoto (Erika Toda)

Junko Aoto (Erika Toda)

The final two episodes run together to provide the big finale. This has a man killed inside his office on the twelfth floor of the block. There’s bulletproof glass in the windows, there are locks on the doors up from the main staircase and from the roof, there are cameras on the corridor showing all the office doors, and there’s a keypad lock on the elevator to ensure no unwelcome visitors stop at this floor. This is a company about to seek a listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. It specializes in medical devices to help nurse the elderly. Their two major projects involve the use of a robot to lift and carry patients around, and training monkeys to fetch and carry things for the patients. Shortly before the launch, there’s an attack on the president’s office. A bullet is found embedded in his door and there’s a break in the glass with glass fragments on the floor inside (the glass was not as bulletproof as people thought). It’s concluded that someone believed they could assassinate the president and Kei Enomoto is called in to beef up security. But before he can put the plan in motion, the president is found dead in his room. It seems he was stuck on the very top of his head where he had a skull abnormality. Although it was only a light blow, it nevertheless caused a haemorrhage and he died. When the internal office layout is investigated, only one man could have entered the president’s office to deliver the fatal blow. There’s a connecting door with the vice president who claims to have been asleep. The police duly arrest him. However, the police then receive an anonymous tip that there had been bad blood between Kei Enomoto and the president five years earlier and, with his known ability to beat security systems, he could have killed the president out of revenge.

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

This proves to be a very satisfying final case for this team to solve. With Kei Enomoto out of the picture, it falls to the lawyers to do some spade work. Junko Aoto (Erika Toda) slowly puts together a profile on one of the suspects, showing he has changed his identity. And then, when Kei Enomoto is released through lack of evidence (and an ambiguous confession from the vice president), Gou Serizawa has his first major idea about what actually happened. This involves the use of the medical robot which was standing in the president’s office. Unfortunately, when put to the test, the robot’s internal programming refuses to perform the predicted movements. However, this does trigger an answer from Kei Enomoto who is able to demonstrate one of the ways in which the robot could have been used. The full explanation does come at the end but, given what we’ve seen in the first nine cases, this is rather unusual. It also leads to an ending which, again, is not quite what might have been predicted. Nevertheless, it does bring this highly entertaining series to a bitter sweet conclusion. For anyone even vaguely interested in locked-room mysteries, this should be mandatory viewing. Here are ten very different types of case with very ingenious mechanisms in play.

For a review of other episodes, see:
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) 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 5 to 7

September 5, 2014 2 comments

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The fifth episode restores my faith in The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) with another completely unique situation. Once again, I’m caught by the creative brilliance of this set-up. If you go back through the annals of locked-room mysteries, there are locked doors and windows, often with bars on the windows or a sheer drop no-one could climb. This time the door had no lock but it could not be opened. Yes, that’s right! There had been an earthquake and, because of the shoddy building work, the house had suffered serious physical damage, subsiding on its foundations so that the openings for the doors and windows were no longer in true. So most of the doors were caught in place by the movement of the walls. Windows were locked, but also very difficult to open because the frames were bent. One of the two doors into this particular room had been forced open. The only way in which it could be closed again would be by someone with a soft mallet knocking the door into the frame from the inside, focusing effort on the top corner of the door. Obviously there’s a man dead inside. He apparently fell and hit his head. But, of course, there’s no mallet or any other heavy tool that could have forced the door closed without seriously damaging it. The only oddities about the room are two vents, one at about head height and the other just above floor level. Someone could have put their hand and a part of their arm through into the room, but neither vent is anywhere near the door. There is a suspect but he has an alibi. As a teacher in the local school, he was coaching the baseball team for four hours. I managed to guess the basic principle involved, but the detail of the execution is one of these delightful reveals to produce a really pleasing outcome. For once, it doesn’t matter whether it might have been practicable in the time available and I don’t care that the design of the room and the effect of the earthquake have produced exactly the right conditions. It just feels good.

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

The sixth episode is a locked-room situation rather than one physical location. Events all take place in a theatre. While the live show is on, a man is killed in a room under the stage. Most of the cast is on stage all the time. Hence, only a very limited number of people could have committed this crime. The problem is that the only escape routes from this room either require the killer to leave the theatre and re-enter through the front doors which would have been rather visible, or to physically cross the stage (something which you would expect members of the audience to notice). This is another of these plots where the solution of the mystery only comes when the motive for the killing is understood. Once it’s possible to say who might have done it, we can then move on to decide how it might have been done. This is another answer that works completely from one point of view, but you have to wonder about those with a different point of view. However, if you put doubt to one side, this is another very satisfying answer to a fundamentally interesting question. The demonstration of the practicality and psychology involved is fascinating.

Junko Aoto (Erika Toda)

Junko Aoto (Erika Toda)

The seventh episode has us in a one-hundred-year old farm house out in the countryside. The ground around the house is very muddy and the front door is only approached over stepping stones to keep shoes dry. On the day in question, we have a woman working in her orchard, pruning apple trees during the critical period of time. She had a clear view of the front of the building at all times. Although a side window was open, anyone stepping out on to the mud would have left clear footprints and there were no marks. There was nothing inside the house that could have been used to enable someone to cross over the mud and so escape on the grass beyond. And then there are the supernatural phenomena that seem to have spectral apparitions and lights in the sky just to add a little spice. The answer to this is nicely obscure until we are asked to consider just how many crimes have been committed. It’s not just the death of the girl. There’s also the theft of a substantial amount of gold bullion and who knows what else.

The characters are developing nicely. Although Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato) is somewhat shallow and has poor social skills when it comes to relating to the general public, he is a good lawyer. So when there’s a need for a useful overview or the right consequences have to flow when Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono) unlocks the room, he usually gets the necessary done. However, he’s also puffing up with the vicarious success of the team. Instead of modestly allowing credit where credit is due, he keeps inflating his own role and so attracting more cases for him to solve. Junko Aoto (Erika Toda) began as a meek and submissive assistant, but she’s beginning to show signs of greater independence. When the need arises, she’s willing to walk around the neighbourhoods to interview potential witnesses and she’s also prepared to speculate with Kei Enomoto as to how the crimes might have been committed. Indeed, there’s even a hint she might be forming some emotional feelings for the young man. At present, they are just team-members, but as time passes, who knows what might happen. As to the man himself, Kei Enomoto remains as enigmatic as when we first met him. He’s clearly obsessive when it comes to physical locks and finds the challenge of solving crimes to be irresistible. He’s very watchable.

For a review of other episodes, see:
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) Episodes 3 and 4
The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 8 to end.

The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 3 and 4

September 4, 2014 1 comment

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The third episode of The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) sees a body found with a single stab wound to the back in a hotel bedroom which had a chain put in place from the inside. This makes a change because, from the outset, this is treated as a murder investigation. For all practical purposes, it’s impossible for the chain to be lifted into place from outside. Yet, if the killer was inside to put the chain in place, how did he or she get out? We are into the land of the elite Shogi players. As our entry into the story, Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato) is general counsel to the National Association and fielded a call from the deceased, one of the senior professionals, just before he was found stabbed to death in his hotel room. The police begin harassing our lawyer who refuses to reveal anything of what was said. Because he finds this embarrassing, he sends Junko Aoto (Erika Toda) and Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono) to investigate. The most obvious possibility is that someone knocked on this man’s door and then persuaded him to turn around so he could be stabbed in the back. But if there was such a level of distrust that the man would not unchain the door, why would be casually turn his back on the attacker? So here we have a locked room and Kei Enomoto decides the only way in which he can unlock it is to understand the motive. This breaks his usual pattern which has ignored the people involved and focused on the facts.

Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato)

Gou Serizawa (Koichi Sato)

This takes us inside the world of the professional Shogi players. The qualification event that’s currently causing waves offers the possibility a woman might finally reach the highest level. She has one more match to play and if she wins, she will make history. By a curious coincidence, the other man who has qualified for this final match should have played the deceased in a previous round. The form book says he would have lost, but there’s doubt as to whether this would give him a motive for murder. The female player also had a sexual relationship with the deceased, but immediately before and after the time of death, she was apparently calling the deceased from her home on the telephone landline (old technology). Although the theme for the motive is fairly obvious, there’s just enough in the rest of the story to keep this fresh and these represents another winning locked room.

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

The fourth episode, however, sees a slight misstep. Gou Serizawa’s beginning to gain some fame because he’s been taking the credit for solving these locked room puzzles. Normally, nothing would have persuaded him to accept this obviously fairly poor and rather obsessive man as a client but, with a photographer looking on, he’s trapped into accepting him.The man wants the lawyer to gain entry to an apartment that has been set up to keep an expensive collection of spiders. The man asserts a claim over two of the spiders but, with the collector dead, neither the mother nor the widow are prepared to allow him into the room. As the story is revealed, it seems the collector was found dead a few days ago. There was a security lock on the outside door and every single window, vent and drain through which a spider might otherwise have escaped, was covered by a mesh or taped up. It seems the collector was bitten by one of the spiders and died. But this is problematic because if he had known he was bitten, why did he not call for help? He was carrying a cellphone and there was a landline in the room. So, on the face of it, this is a very intriguing mystery, but the answer turns out to be one that might conceivably have worked if it had been in written form. We tend to find more things plausible when we see them in our mind’s eye. But as seen on the television screen, this strikes me as seriously implausible. This is unfortunate because, if you accept the basic premise, the various factors do all fit together perfectly.

For a review of other episodes, see:
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) 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.

The Locked Room Murders or Kagi no Kakatta Heya or 鍵のかかった部屋 (2012) Episodes 1 and 2

September 2, 2014 1 comment

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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.

Junko Aoto (Erika Toda)

Junko Aoto (Erika Toda)

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.

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

Kei Enomoto (Satoshi Ono)

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.

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