Originally published in 1995
English translation first published in 2005
Preceded by The Case of the Moonlight Sonata
Followed by Kidnappings, Shootings, & Drownings… Oh My!
Conan enters a mystery contest where he must be the first to discover the true identity of the enigmatic Night Baron. But the fun and games end when the contest turns into a real-life murder.
Later, Rachel’s high school teacher is about to get married. But the wedding bells stop ringing when someone tries to murder the beautiful bride.
All the clues are there — can you figure out whodunit before Conan does?
It’s been a few months since I last read and posted about a volume of Case Closed so I was pleased to get back to it this week, even if this volume begins with the conclusion to an underwhelming adventure from the last one. For the benefit of those who do not remember that was the Pro Soccer Player Case which concerned the kidnapping of a star player’s sibling shortly before a big game with a demand that the player throw the game for their safe return.
When I discussed the first part of this story I noted that it did not feel particularly complex but I hoped that I would find some of that complexity in the remaining parts. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that we get just one chapter to resolve things in, that doesn’t really happen. In fact I was surprised at just how easily the story is resolved – at least in terms of the detection process. There is an attempt to delve into some more emotional material that, while not entirely successful, was an interesting note to end things on.
The next story, the Night Baron Murder Case, inspires the title of this collection and I felt that it was the more interesting of the two complete stories here. Doctor Agasa was meant to attend an event being held at a fancy hotel but when one of his party gets sick he transfers the reservations to Jimmy, Richard and Rachel. When they arrive at the hotel however they discover that only half of the costs were covered but they have an opportunity to get the rest of their stay paid for if they are the first to work out which of the other guests was the organizer of the trip and has styled themselves as the Night Baron – a recurring character from the detective novels written by Jimmy’s father.
This is a pretty convoluted setup as is reflected by how awkwardly that paragraph read but once you accept it there is plenty to enjoy here. The setup with the guests all trying to play detective is entertaining enough, particularly as we see them all trying to read far too much into every little interaction, but things really pick up when we get to the really striking murder scene in which the victim falls to their death to be impaled on a statue and we realize that there is a proper locked room problem to solve.
The problem concerns how a killer could have murdered the victim inside their hotel room and left, closing the security bar behind them. While the setup to this problem is quite simple, Aoyama does a really good job of explaining the process by which the trick is achieved with some clear and effective illustrations. While it’s not the most dazzling solution to this sort of problem, it is perfectly pitched for the audience and the medium. I also appreciated though that solving the locked room is not the end of the puzzle – there are other well-clued aspects of the case to put together, making the solution to this one feel quite cleverly-worked.
The supporting material concerning the treasure hunt aspect of the case, while amusing, is less interesting though it does complicate the central investigation quite nicely. I did enjoy Richard’s arrogant posturing, playing off his growing reputation as a super sleuth, and I also enjoyed that this story gives Rachel a reason to conduct her own investigation, allowing her to contribute to the solution.
The final story, the Poisoned Bride Case, is a shorter story that takes place during the wedding of one of Rachel and Jimmy’s teachers. In the lead up to the ceremony the bride is brought a bag of drinks, sipping on one through a straw as she is visited by friends, family and the groom. When she collapses they realize that someone has poisoned her drink but the question is which of the party could have done that.
There are some interesting elements to this case, not least that Conan and Rachel have much of the time recorded on film. I also thought that the discussion of the timing of the incident was done well (and, once again, utilized a very effective timeline graphic). The case’s solution is quite clever although the clueing to one part of it is rather subtle; I did come away from this thinking I’d like to revisit the story with its anime adaptation to see if that works better in motion.
Where I feel that this story doesn’t work quite so well is in its attempt to incorporate a more emotional storytelling element. It’s not that the idea is a bad one – in fact, I feel that some of the elements used pay off very effectively – but that I am not sure I can really buy how this case is finally resolved after all that has gone before it. Still, the path to that solution is interesting and I did love the timing element to this case.
As for the series’ ongoing stories, neither of the complete stories in this volume do much to move them forward. The concluding chapter to the Pro Soccer Player Case does at least deal with some of Rachel’s feelings toward Jimmy but while it is nice to get them addressed, it doesn’t progress our understanding of that relationship much. The mystery of Jimmy’s transformation into Conan is not touched at all. As I have no doubt written before, I do not expect much movement in these plot threads given that I have close to another eighty volumes to read to get caught up, but it does feel strange to go so long without being referenced. I am hoping that a story addresses this soon to remind us that presumably Jimmy doesn’t want to stay an elementary school student for the rest of his life…
The Verdict: I felt that this was a pretty solid volume. The two complete stories are both engaging and offer intriguing and pretty well-clued puzzles for the reader to solve with the Night Baron Murder Case being particularly effective. Only the first chapter, the conclusion to the story from the previous volume, disappoints but being so short it was easy to overlook.