In one of those rare manga series containing stand alone volumes rather than 22 plus continuous volumes (I can hear all the librarians out there cheering), The Kindaichi Case Files is thus not only a great deal but also a psychologically driven series of Agatha Christie-esque murder mysteries featuring a teen detective. Hajime Kindaichi is not so impressive to his peers — he’s not book-smart, not athletic, has no real ambition, and generally prefers to be on the sidelines. That is until he’s drawn into a frightening sequence of crimes and murders surrounding his school’s performance of The Phantom of the Opera. The drama club, though shadowed by their star’s recent apparent suicide, decide to continue with their production anyway. The story of the play is creepy enough on its own to give cast and crew alike the willies, but when they land on the isolated Opera House island for a session of intense preparation for their national drama competition, the atmosphere just gets more chilling. Then people start dying. A sly combination of Christie’s And Then There Were None and the Phantom’s own twisted obsessions and all the shocks and creaking doors you could ask for, The Opera House Murders is also very aware of the motives and humanity of the characters, victims, detectives and murderers alike. Kindaichi himself is a sympathetic detective, and deduces the criminal not only through physical evidence (though there are enough for a CSI episode) but also through profiling the suspects. The gore here is just gruesome enough to make its point, but never out of control, and the true suspense comes from the cleverness of the mystery and the fun of following the plot threads. Great for teens and adults alike, though those readers easily spooked may want to try another title.
The Kindaichi Case Files: The Opera House Murders
by Yozaburo Kanari
Art by Fumiya Sato