One Mystery Opening into Another

The Labyrinth of the Scriptorium, by Hitoshi Goto, (Veronica Lane Books), 101 pages, release date 5 March, 2015

Originally published to acclaim in Japan in 2002, Hitoshi Goto’s The Labyrinth of the Scriptorium is a challenging read, simultaneously interesting and frustrating. The book has a mystery-within-a-mystery-within-a-mystery-within-a-mystery structure that requires readers willing to repeatedly leave one narrative for another.

What drew my attention to the book was both the title and the promise, in the write-up, of a mystery about the Cathars, the Christian sect annihilated as heretical in the 13th Century. Interestingly, this massacre has a parallel in feudal Japan—one of the book’s more interesting topics.

The Cathars appear early on in the novel, then are dropped for a series of nested mysteries set in Europe during and after World War II. The Cathars reappear at the book’s end as the central character, Professor Tomii puzzles his way through the more recent events. What this meant for me was that I read quickly at first, then more slowly when the strand I was most interested in was dropped, and finally sped up again when the novel returned to the theme that had drawn me to it.

The Cathar mystery is not resolved at the end of The Labyrinth of the Scriptorium. Instead, readers are promised a resolution in a sequel, Twilight of Gutenberg.

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