The Tattoo Murder Case, by Akimitsu Takagi

Lost in a Good Book, by Jasper Fforde

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody, by Will Cuppy

The Tattoo Murder Case is a…murder mystery novel, of all things, which I suppose you never would have guessed based on the title.

Seeing as my basis for comparison in reading mysteries is much smaller than fantasy or SF, here’s all I can come up with:

  • Not as clever as Agatha Christie.

  • A locked-room mystery where the locked-room aspect was downplayed, even mocked.

  • Prose (admittedly in translation) inelegant and unappealing, but functional and readable.

  • Compared in the reviews to John Dickson Carr, whom I haven’t read.

I figured out something, though. I don’t like mysteries that I can figure out before the denoument. There were a lot of details that I’d missed, but the central twist I had even before the murder occurred. I’ve talked to people that like to read a lot of mysteries, and most of them sound happy that they were able to figure out such-and-such by the end of the first chapter. Is that analagous to being the kind of SF reader that spends the entire time bitching about how explosions can’t be heard in space? Which always struck me as being a waste of time, too. Oh, well. I spend the first chapter of a fantasy novel figuring out which country or myth the main country was based on. “Oh,” I’ll tell myself with smug satisfaction. “That’s supposed to be France.”

Lost in a Good Book is a good book for people that like to read. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s metafiction, but it takes some of the elements therefrom and turns them into insider jokes. No…this is more of a cross between Alice in Wonderland and the farce (dramatically) that was made out of the partial novel of The Mystery of Edwin Drooooooooooooo-duh. For example, two of the guys that are assigned to tail the main character early on in the book are called “Cannon” and “Fodder.” They die, of course. One of the main villains is called “Jack Schitt.”

The premise is that our Heroine, Thursday Next, is able to move into and out of books. That’s right–in the first book of this series, The Eyre Affair, Thursday is transported into the original copy of Jane Eyre and changes the ending from the lame-ass “Jane goes off to South America”* and gets her married to Rochester. All other copies of the book change to reflect the new ending.

I’m not going to give away any more of the plot; it’s too funny and I’d be here all night. Elements of note: Mycroft Next, Thursday’s mad-scientist uncle invents Nextian geometry, which allows circular scones to be punched out of dough without any scraps left over; a Kafka-esque trial that makes fun of Kafka, Alice in Wonderland, and existing legal systems with one fell swoop; and nevermind, just read the book.

The Decline and Fall is really only summed up one way, by quotes.

On Alexander the Great:

“Alexander’s empire fell to pieces at once, and nothing remained of his work except that the people he had killed were still dead.”

On Attila the Hun:

“Attila the Hun was an awful pest, but there are plenty of others. You mustn’t blame him for all your troubles, because most of them are your own fault, and the sooner you realize it the better.1

1Attila’s name does not rhyme with vanilla, as it used to in my day. It is now believed that, if children can be taught to accent Attila on the first syllable, things may take a turn for the better.”

On Louis XIV:

“Things went from bad to worse until just anybody could defeat the French.”

On Catherine the Great:

“…but in 1754 Catherine had a baby boy who looked a lot like Sergei Saltykov, a young man with whom Catherine often discussed current events. Some historians thing Peter may have been the father because the child grea up to resemble him in character and general uselessness.”

I have another book by Will Cuppy from the library that I haven’t read yet, How to Be a Hermit.

“Coffee! With the first nip of the godlike brew I decide not to jump off the roof until things get worse–I’ll give them another week or so. With the second I think I see a way of meeting my monthly insurance premium, and I simultaneously forgive the person I heard saying I was not half as funny as I thought I was.”

–I can see Dave Barry and Terry Pratchett in here. Especially in the footnotes.

*Or wherever. I’m not going to look it up at this moment. Muahahahah!