How do you follow-up one of the most popular and successful mystery novels in recent memory? It’s a tough question, and the very one that was on my mind when I sat myself down to read Sakuraba’s sequel to her international bestselling book GOSICK.
Yet, what I discovered wasn’t necessarily what I had come expecting.
Let me just start off by saying that I was elated when I heard news of TokyoPop’s decision to publish the second novel in this series, The Crime That Has No Name. After having been sadistically tantalized by the preview chapter at the end of book one (something they, quite intelligently, left out of this edition), and having gone for many months without word as to whether anyone would ever get to see the book at all, it was an obvious pleasure to learn of their decision. Not to mention the fact that it came on the heels of news from Japan that the novels would soon be adapted into a television series by renowned Studio BONES.
Now, to get straight to what many of you are most curious about, without further ado: the story.
This time around, Kazuya and Victorique are far from the sea, but hardly far from danger. Spotting an ad in the local newspaper, Kazuya is taken aback at what he finds written. The classified invites the “descendants of the Gray Wolf” to return home for a Summer Festival. No further information is given and the text remains intriguingly vague. Remembering the rumors around the school that espoused Victorique as the gray wolf reborn, Kazuya quickly brings the article to his female friend’s attention, curious of her response. Little does he realize though, that by the time nightfall has arrived, he and she will have boarded a train with a number of other strange characters, all of whom have come home for one reason: the ad. But of course, that small piece of newspaper ink will prove to be the least important thing on Kazuya’s mind. Because by the time he and Victorique arrive at the medieval town hidden in the mountains and fog, surrounded by the howls of far off wolves, the group of visitors will learn of something nobody expected.
An accusation of murder.
A murder that took place many years before.
A murder that was committed by Victorique’s own mother.
Though the town of strange and oddly dressed citizens allow the young girl safe passage into their gates, albeit after a small confrontation, almost everyone’s eyes rest on her with suspicion and malice. When Kazuya seeks to understand the situation better, and the reason for which Victorique chose to come to such a hostile place, her response is less than agreeable.
Victorique reveals that she has come to prove her mother innocent of the crime she was accused of committing at fifteen. The only problem is that she’ll have to avoid being murdered while she does it.
If the first GOSICK novel was a captivating mystery with dashes of intriguing character development, the sequel is a character-oriented narrative with dashes of mystery. Choosing to concentrate intensely on the hidden motivations and conflicts raging in our two main characters and their lives, Kazuki Sakuraba delves head first into an area of her story that she had no chance to expand upon in the original.
To be blunt, it was an unexpected choice of direction for the book.
Since the novel focuses more on the characters than the plot, the mystery, while enjoyable, is nowhere near as gripping as the first installment in the series. Yet quite surprisingly, it doesn’t seem to hurt the story much at all as a result. The author’s desire to concentrate on the odd young couple proves increasingly enjoyable, as both are anything but boring individuals.
Just as the original GOSICK had a good number of moments that stuck in the minds of its readers for a long time afterwards, so does The Crime That Has No Name. Heightened tension and death-defying suspense characterize the latter quarter of the story, leaving little room for reading breaks. The ending of the novel is particularly touching, and the last page will remain one of my favorite moments in the series thus far.
Now, unfortunately, I must take a moment to lament. Tokyopop, though having delayed this book for quite a long time, apparently found it not in their interest to do a thorough proofreading of the text before releasing. Though the material isn’t littered left and right with typos, there are a few, and they’re obvious enough that you’d expect anybody could have quickly spotted them with even a brief glance. Sadly, this is what many readers have begun to expect from the publisher, and as a result it has garnered somewhat of a sour reputation among fans of Japanese literature. However, the grammatical laziness doesn’t affect the book in any significant way, and it remains readable.
To wrap this all up, The Crime That Has No Name is a fun sequel to an original that was thoroughly enchanting to many avid mystery fans. Though not as groundbreaking as its predecessor, The Crime That Has No Name does continue the adventures of two very interesting early twentieth century teenagers. And judging from what I have seen thus far, we have good reason to believe that the books in the series that have yet to come will prove every bit, if not more, magical than the ones that came before.
Matthew Reeves is an aspiring novelist living in California. You can usually find him lost in thought on a walk or writing on Twitter as @MattReeves17.