“Say this daily routine of mine—of ours—and all the little bits and pieces that aren’t routine happened to be a story. If there were people who were hoping that story would be a genuine mystery, I’d like to take the opportunity to apologize. I don’t think this story will be what they’re here for.”
This quote from protagonist Kimihiko Kimizuka near the beginning of The Detective Is Already Dead neatly sums up what might disappoint some readers who jump into it based on the title: the story doesn’t exactly meet the typical expectations of a mystery. While there are certainly some mystery elements driving the plot, it’s much more of an episodic action adventure story about a young man who’s continually drawn into a supernatural criminal underworld against his will. But if that sounds interesting to you, it’s definitely a fun read, and the mystery angle does make it unique.
The story begins with a fast-paced prologue that throws readers right into Kimizuka’s chaotic life. Over just a few pages, you learn that he spent a few of his teen years as the assistant of a mysterious detective who went by the alias “Siesta.” Following Siesta’s untimely death, Kimizuka has resolved to spend his final year of high school as a normal student, avoiding all the danger of his previous occupation. But trouble seems to have a way of finding him, and he’s soon approached by a strange young woman named Nagisa Natsunagi, who enlists his help in solving an even stranger personal mystery. The ensuing investigation kicks off a new series of adventures, interwoven with flashbacks to Kimizuka’s past that gradually provide more explanation about his relationship with the late Siesta and the years they spent together.
At first, I was a little thrown off by the way the novel draws so much from the mystery genre while also defying its conventions at every turn. I was expecting to be able to follow along with clues the characters pick up on and try to identify the culprit of a crime myself, but this doesn’t always feel possible. The narrative sometimes moves too fast or hides information that the characters know until it can be revealed as a later twist. If you’re looking for a neatly structured “fair play” mystery, you won’t find it here. But I think there’s also something to be said for the similarities between this style of mystery and the foundational classic of the genre: the original Sherlock Holmes stories. Those were also full of deductions based on tiny details to which the readers weren’t necessarily privy. So while The Detective Is Already Dead might not meet modern mystery readers’ expectations, it’s interesting to explore the ways in which it imitates a much older influence.
And one thing I did really enjoy was the friendship that Kimizuka and Natsunagi develop as they stumble into solving supernatural crimes together. From their first meeting in which she shoves her fingers into his mouth as some form of gross-out torture, the two have a wonderfully weird and playfully antagonistic dynamic, and I always enjoyed reading the banter between them. I’ll be looking forward to seeing how their relationship plays out in later installments in the series. And while I haven’t had a chance to check out the currently airing The Detective Is Already Dead anime yet, I imagine it’s a story that might adapt to the screen well, with its already episodic format and frequent descriptions of visual spectacle. It may not be what all mystery fans are looking for, but it’s a creative narrative that I’ll be interested to see continue.
Thanks to translator Taylor Engel and the rest of the staff of Yen Press for making The Detective Is Already Dead available now in English!
You can also checkout the anime adaptation on Funimation.
Title: The Detective Is Already Dead, Vol. 1
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: June 29th, 2021
Type: Light Novel
Translation: Taylor Engel