Honestman
Author: Tomoyuki Shirai
Specifications: ISBN  978-4041034743
352 pages
12.8 x 18.8 cm / 5.1 x 7.5 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kadokawa Corporation
Tokyo, 2015
www.kadokawa.co.jp
Buy now: amazon.co.jp

Synopsis

Following a wild and bloody prologue filled with all manner of sordidness and brutality, from—at the mild end—an underage call girl operation to abduction, imprisonment, and repeated rape of the girls and to grisly violence that leaves the victim barely clinging to life, the main body of the story unfolds in a series of murders that occur en route to and on an isolated island.

With references to places such as Tokyo and neighboring Chiba, readers may conjure an image of contemporary Japan, but jaws will drop at the highly imaginative premise that emerges. In the course of evolution, the human race has abandoned sexual intercourse as its mode of reproduction. Men and women no longer have reproductive organs, and in most cases, the man and woman meld their bodies together to become “conjoined humans”—the ketsugō ningen of the Japanese title—by having the woman enter the man through his anus (also acceptable is for the man to enter the woman in the same way, but the pain involved is so much greater that it is uncommon). In a conjoined human, all of the organs of two separate humans are melded together and/or reorganized within a single body. The new individual has only a single head and brain, but four eyes, four arms, and four legs, and reaches a stature of three meters (ten feet) or more. How gender is determined remains unclear, as does how conjoined humans subsequently reproduce. But more importantly for this story, the melding process produces abnormal individuals at the rate of one in every few thousand instances. In a normal meld, the regions of the brain that govern emotions and memory are made up of female cells, while those controlling motor skills and other physical functions are made up of male cells. But when these brain functions are reversed, the conjoined human invariably acquires an untreatable communicative disorder that prevents lying. An individual with this disorder is known as an “honestman,” and one without the disorder is called a “normalman.” If an honestman is asked, “Did you kill so-and-so?” he will answer “Yes” if he did and “No” if he did not with 100% reliability. He is incapable of falsely answering in the negative. In this story, such “disabled” honestmen are placed among the limited circle of suspects in a closed-circle murder mystery.

In Chapter One, three members of the Terada House criminal group that runs an underage call girl operation, all of them fans of kinky pornography and snuff films, decide to produce their own reality show-style movie. The plan is to rent Kureta, a fictitious island situated far out in the Pacific south of Tokyo Bay (Kureta is also the Japanese pronunciation for Crete, calling to mind the famous “All Cretans are liars” paradox of philosophy), to place seven honestmen on the island, and then document their shared lives for a period of time. They advertise for honestmen to participate, offering very attractive terms, but get only five takers. The Terada three ultimately fill out the planned seven-member cast with two normalmen disguised as honestmen, and the project boat sets sail with three production staff, seven participants, and a helmsman aboard. Even before the boat reaches Kureta, however, a participant named Imai, who had claimed to be a detective in landing a place in the cast, kills the helmsman and the three staffers (though one is later discovered to have survived).

In Chapter Two, the driverless boat washes up on the island of Karigari, and the seven cast members go ashore. The next morning, the only two known residents of the island, a painter and his young daughter, are found dead. Needless to say, all seven honestmen (of whom two are actually normalmen) deny responsibility. The killer must be one of the normalmen, but this leaves the questions of how to smoke that normalman out and what the motive could have been. With the next supply boat scheduled to arrive on December 7, one week hence, the countdown for solving the mystery begins. As the chapter comes to a close, the perpetrator has been identified and the full truth of the crime appears to have been brought to light.

In the Epilogue, a Japan Coast Guard ship arrives at Karigari on December 24 to find just three honestmen survivors. When the supply boat arrived on December 7, it had been hijacked by a man in a trench coat and a young woman, who apparently intended to kill the entire cast. The hijackers and three of the cast had subsequently been killed, and one cast member had committed suicide. Everything that appeared to be known at the end of Chapter Two proves to be wrong, and a whole new round of detective work must take place. One of the survivors turns out to be one of the Terada three—a woman. She had disguised herself as a man and switched places with a cast member, then raped a young boy who was on the island (apparently as a prisoner of the painter) and melded with him. Her astonishing crime is revealed at the very end.

Given the frequently grotesque content, the work is clearly not for everyone, and many of the “tricks” will raise eyebrows, but it is a meticulously well-crafted puzzler that is sure to deliver a thrilling read for classic mystery lovers.