This is a repost of Notes on Hyouka as an Exploration of Detective Fiction as published on Altair & Vega on July 5, 2012. As the post’s original author, I have reposted it here for preservation purposes since that blog is no longer fully functioning. It has not been edited or revised in any way.
“Beautiful. So beautiful, it just makes me swoon. The most beautiful part about it is that the answer is zero. That said, someone like me thinks that if the answer is going to be zero, there’s really no need to go out of your way to make the calculation.”
-Ougi Oshino to Koyomi Araragi, Owarimonogatari, Episode 1
A locked room mystery plays on the idea of the impossible. The crime scene is isolated with a set amount of variables: a vanished culprit, and information given to both the detective and the reader of that respective work. In a way, a locked room mystery is an equation or a formula. After a while, the reader learns what to expect and when, eagerly anticipating the detective’s incoming speech. This subgenre of detective fiction is responsible for some of the most famous, influential, and bestselling works of all mystery novels, most notably John Dickson Carr’s The Hollow Man and Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
The insatiable appetite humanity seems to have for these types of mysteries is intrinsically tied to human nature itself. When presented with a seemingly insolvable situation, we crave rationality and an explanation.