Thursday, May 16, 2019

Norizuki Rintaro : Midori no Tobira wa Kiken ("The Lure of The Green Door", in The Realm of Impossible, by John Pugmire and Brian Skupin) - trad. Ho-Ling Wong, 2017



Norizuki Rintaro is the president of the Honkaku Mystery Writers Club of Japan, the counterpart of the English Detection Club.
He was born on October 15, 1964 in Matsue.
He made his debut in 1988 with the novel Mippei Kyoshitsu (The Locked Classroom: no published in US or Europe) and wrote 8 novels with his eponymous character Rintaro Norizuki. In 2005 he received the Honkaku Mystery Award (category: fiction) for his novel Namakubi ni Kiite Miro (The Gorgon's Look: no published in US or Europe).
The Lure of the Green Door (1991) was published in EQMM in November 2014 and was the second story to be published in the West. In fact An Urban Legend Puzzle of 2001 was the first (and won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for the best short story in 2002) to be published in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine in January 2004.

To Rintaro Norizuki, the editor of the magazine Shoetsu Nova has commissioned a story with a locked room. But he doesn't know where to start. To his aid, we could say, rushes Sawada Honami, the librarian of the Municipal Library, who apparently invites him to go out with her and then uses him as a driver for a certain deal. When Rintaro now thinks that going out with the girl, it will not be certain as he had suggested it to be, a pleasant exit for him, he realizes that the reason for the exit is the donation of a huge collection of books by such a person which was later found hanged in a room closed from the inside.
This fellow was named Sugata Kuniaki, the youngest son of a wealthy family. He was like a maniac in fantasy literature. He was collecting rare and valuable books, mostly related to occultism and mysticism ... translating some minor works under the name of Kurouri Arashita "
Rintaro remembers seeing a work by this Kuniaki under the pseudonym Kurouri Arashita: he had written something about Aleister Crowley, the greatest esotericist of the '900.
Invited several times by the Municipal Library to hold courses, he had established such excellent reports that he promised that if he died, his entire collection of books, which was enormous, would go to the library where Sawada works. And he had put this promise into his testament in full. So, having died, his entire collection should have gone to the Library. But this is opposed by the wife of the deceased.
This is strange. Why should his wife oppose? Private interests, with collectors? Maybe. To Norizuki, however, plays a certain bell in the brain and asks how the collector died. The answer is hanged. Hanged in a room whose door was found bolted from the inside and which was completely smashed to access, in a room where there are no other exits. So basically, a crime in a locked room.
Norizuki has found a case to talk about in his story.
However, it seems strange to Rintaro that someone like the victim, who had boasted of being almost like Crowley in life, and therefore had very strong self-esteem, had hanged himself.
At that point the friend confesses to him that if that is a strange thing, in the room where he killed himself, there was one even greater: a green door, like the one in Wells' story, "The Door in the Wall" .
Wells's green door led into a parallel universe. But a green door, created in the likeness of Wells's, is in Mr. Sugata's study.
It originally connected the room with the garden to the outside. Both this door and the one on the other side of the room were oak, but only the other was usable, and it was the one they had found closed from the inside and they had to break through; the other had rusted hinges or the door's wood was so swollen and swollen that it didn't move an inch. The police had made all the checks to see if it could have been opened, but it was as if it had a will of his own not to open up. The victim seems to have told his friends that his door would open when he died, but this prophecy had not come true because the door was firmly anchored to the wall.
The villa was located north of Kichijōji station, in the middle of a residential area near the border with the Suginami district. It was a two-storey, western-style building, decrepit, with static wood problems. It looked exactly because of its appearance, the ideal home of an occultist.
Just arrived at their destination, Rintaro and Honami, are faced by a beautiful woman, Sugita, the victim's wife, who directs a lascivious look at Norizuki, which does not go unnoticed by her partner. Norizuki takes advantage of the chance offered to him and asks, by virtue of a lie, that is, of his knowledge of the woman's husband, to be admitted to the library of that house, home of his fantastic collection. For his part, Honami asks as a librarian, why the widow refuses to donate the collection of books. The answer is quite unexpected: the woman's ghost has appeared several times, urging her not to separate that house from the books he loved so much, so that they die together with the house.
Honami's purpose must be to keep his wife engaged in conversation, so that Rintaro can visit the library and find items that can solve the doubt, that is, if Sugata Kuniaki has killed himself or has been killed with a trick.
The library located on the second floor, develops in the eastern wing of the house and occupies one third of the width of the house: it is occupied by an impressive volume of books, about 8000, divided into shelves accessible by stairs also mounted on tracks.
When Rintaro goes down to the study, it is right under the library. The door that had been broken to allow  to enter it had new hinges. It was a door like any other, made of oak. It had been locked behind and it was found that it could not be opened from the outside in any way. On the other side there was the famous green door. Rintaro tries to push, but no matter how much strength he puts in, he'll have to stop because he doesn't get anything.
5 men of the police had pushed her without getting anything: imagine if he could succeed!
Rintaro knows that there was a garden on the other side.
When the woman was questioned, she knows that one day, having found the door to the study closed from the inside, thinking of something bad that had happened, she had immediately called the emergency service and it was they who destroyed the door, firmly blocked by the door. inside, to enter the room where poor Sugata Kuniaki had been hanged: it seems he had suffered from disturbing manic depressions.
Rintaro, more and more convinced that the woman hides something, turns to the father Police Inspector and confides his fears to him. But they need to know more about the woman. Therefore the father goes to the police of the place in question, which is Musashino, to get information from the local police. And here he learns from the locals, somewhat reticent at first, that the woman seems to have a lover, the director of a transport agency, for at least three years. But then he also knows about the other. If the majority has been silent, in reality it is not true that the two had no children. Because they had one, but heavily handicapped. Of which the mother did not want to know anything so true that they had put her in a clinic and left there. The victim had discovered the affair between his wife and lover and had decided to divorce.
End of the matter? No, because it seems that the victim's father was overflowing. If he divorced her before his father's death, the woman would not have touched anything, especially since the divorce was to fall on her. Then the cause of the dispute, that is the husband, had to be eliminated: in that case, even assuming that the husband had decided to remove his wife from the will, she still as the mother of the daughter heir to fortune and not able to understand and want, would however administered the huge patrimony.
So it is clear that the victim was killed, probably strangled and then hung up to simulate the hanging (the doctor in charge of the autopsy declares that perhaps it was done too superficially) by the two lovers.
However the quid is all about how the body was closed in a practically impregnable room, closed from the inside, whose only windows were nailed.
Everything is based on books.
The following day Rintaro Norizuki reveals the mystery of the locked room.
First of all it must be said - I say this also with a bit of personal pride - that the story by Rintaro Norizuki, a bit like mine, contained in the same anthology of John Pugmire, is a very original story.
Looking at the Japanese story, we first see how it heavily inherits, but also in its own light, the influence of Ellery Queen's Western narrative and, in this case, the US: it's no coincidence that Rintaro Norizuki is called the Japanese Ellery Queen. In fact, as in the production of the two Jewish cousins ​​Dannay & Lee, Rintaro also creates a character who is the author of the stories and at the same time their protagonist: but while for the two cousins, Ellery Queen is a pseudonym (which also allowed them to play on the controversy that opposed Ellery Queen at Barnaby Ross, their other pseudonym), in her case it is not:  in case of Norizuki, the identification between the author and the protagonist is realized, almost a parallel, imaginary universe in which the japanese writer finds himself detective unraveling the most intricate skeins. And he also happens to have a police inspector father, Richard Queen's parallel.
Moreover, in our case, the amusing scuffles between Honami and Rintaro, seem those between Ellery and Nikki Porter. And it is not by chance that she is closer to the truth, before you guess Norizuki: You mentioned a dimensional gap because of some gravitational force. And that 'when it happened to hit the secret of the green door ". Honami speaks about the door, as a gravitational opening, as it is in Wells's novel, towards a parallel universe, while Norizuki means it in relation to another meaning.
There could also be the message of The Dying Message in the novel. In fact it is reported that the victim had confided to his friends that after his death, the green door would open, while in life he was firmly closed, sealed.
All in relation to a locked room whose solution is perfectly logical as well as being a miracle of simplicity and originality: one of the best stories published in the West in recent years.
By now we must admit the great originality and the delirious imagination of many Japanese authors: it was they and Paul Halter above all, to raise the number of impossible crimes, with very appreciable results.
Analyzing the story, I find similarities between the story by Norizuki Rintaro and one by Shimada, The Locked House of Pithagoras : both are houses in which the solution is based on an assumption there of mathematics, here of physics. Norizuki's solution is perfectly plausible, wonderful in its simplicity but also absolutely visionary. Doug Greene could even without reading the story understand perhaps the trick, based on the knowledge of the problems that had the house of Derek Smith, in which many books were piled up.
In our case we do not have a whodunnit, but a howdunnit: it is evident that the only subject opposed to Norizuki's investigative action, namely Sugita, if she is not a murderer, is certainly the murderer's accomplice. But if we know from the first pages who the murderer is, we don't know how he/she could have staged the false scene of suicide. We will understand this in the end, after Norizuki has talked about a certain effect of physics. The solution explains both the message of "The Dying Message" and the wife's opposition to the donation of books. But for it to be well understood, it is necessary to read the story very carefully, focusing on the structure of the house and on the dimensions of both the library and the study. If one does not read well, one can incur the mistake that I had made, a few months ago when, having not read well, pondering the situation, the story, I had expressed a doubt that it was not sensible.
Norizuki explains everything. The reader has all the clues in hand to get to the solution together or before Norizuki, but of course it won't be.
I have to say that there could also be a "Challenge to Reader", as in Ellery Queen, but hidden, or rather implicit, like the one existing for example in "The Siamese Twin Mystery", when Norizuki says:

But there is no other way around it. Locked-room murders like you
read about in novels don‘t lie around every corner you know. I am not
trying to defend her, but the police consider her innocent of any crime
and I don‘t think she has been lying about that either. Just admit it
was just a suicide. It‘s just physically impossible to escape from that
room.‖
―Physically impossible....‖
As Rintarō repeated those words, Honami shrugged. She stared at
Rintarō as if he had gone mad and asked in hesitation: ―Don‘t tell me
you read some book in that library and got some strange idea in your
head?‖
Rintarō Norizuki

―Strange idea?‖
Honami said almost boastfully: ―You know, like the green door is
the entrance to a parallel world and the criminal fled there, or there is
a dimensional gap in that room because of some gravitational force.‖
Rintarō laughed and winked at her.‖
―You are very close actually.‖

it is as if he challenged the reader .
The fact that the two doors have different hinges also has its importance: the new hinges of the first allow it to open. If it had rusted hinges, could it have been opened? But this does not explain the solution, if anything it is another stake on which it rests.
Everything is absolutely as it is described.

Pietro De Palma


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