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Death Note: Another Note
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Written by maehara   
Tuesday, 19 August 2008 16:00
Death NoteSet before the events outlined in the manga series, Death Note: Another Note focuses on one of the early investigations of the detective known only as 'L'. Although if that title gives you hope that another Death Note is on the scene, you can put that hope to one side right now...

There's a serial killer on the loose in Los Angeles and the local authorities need help fast. For some reason the killer has been leaving a string of maddeningly arcane clues at each crime scene. Each of these clues, it seems, is an indecipherable roadmap to the next murder. Onto the scene comes L, the mysterious super-sleuth. Despite his peculiar working habits - he's never shown his face in public, for example - he's the most decorated detective in the world and has never tackled a case he hasn't been able to crack. But this time he needs help. Enlisting the services of an FBI agent named Naomi Misora, L starts snooping around the City of Angels. It soon becomes apparent that the killing spree is a psychotic riddle designed specifically to engage L in a battle of wits. Stuck in the middle between killer and investigator, it's up to Naomi to navigate both the dead bodies and the egos to solve the Los Angeles BB Murder Cases...

Okay. No Death Note (despite the name), no shinigami, but plenty of the same investigative cat-and-mouse that typified the duel between L and Light. The link to the original manga and anime is provided by L - naturally - and Naomi Misora, the FBI agent who very nearly beat Light at his own game during the early part of the original series. If you remember the scenes in the anime where L or Light used to painstakingly explaing the logic of their latest tactic, you'll have the general idea of how this plays out, but I have to say that that sort of exposition works a whole lot better in this format than it ever did animated.

On top of all the plot detail, there's plenty of description of scenese and characters that almost makes you feel as though you're there - that will mostly be down to the original Japanese writing, but it has to be said that good translation will also play a part there - a poor translation could well have ruined the tone of the book, but fortunately that hasn't happened.

It's not all good, though - some frankly unbelievable alliterative names (Beyond Birthday, Quarter Queen, Believe Bridesmaid, Backyard Bottomslash, Blackberry Brown, Bluesharp Babysplit...) stand out and really just don't feel right - while the alliteration is required by the story, you really can't see anyone actually using those names in the real world. Then, for all the intricate details of the investigation that point you in a particular direction as to how the search for the killer is playing out, there's a plot "twist" towards the end of the book that jerks you in an entirely different direction. "Misdirection" is probably a better word for it, though, as the book sets about deliberately leading you down the wrong path. I don't know about you, but to me, that's cheating. For a "whodunit" like this to be "fair", it needs to present the evidence fairly and in such a way that you can figure out the killer on your own, and I don't think this book would allow you to do that.

That's not to say I don't enjoy it, though - I did. The writing is atmospheric enough to make the plot's shenanigans just about forgiveable, and the physical quality of the book itself is impressive - it feels right in the hand and should stand up well to waer & tear. It also doesn't require knowledge of the manga or anime - there are a few references to characters that you'd miss, but the main story itself stands on its own. I'm not as much a book reader as I used to be, through circumstance rather than choice, but Death Note: Another Note has earned its place on my shelf. Well worth reading.

Rating - ****

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