Usotoki Rhetoric Volume 1

One Peace. Oct. 2022. 192p. pap. $10.95. ISBN 9781642732030.
Gr 6-9–In 1920s Japan, cautious Kanoko, 16, discovers that her ability to hear when people are lying is a valuable asset for a struggling private detective. She has been ostracized most of her life due to this ability; to her, voices have a metallic ring when people are deliberately dishonest. As a child she didn’t realize this ability was unique, and her blunt reporting of lies unnerved her small town neighbors. Hoping to hide her gift and start afresh in a new town, she is instead taken in by a poor but sharply observant private detective, Iwai. As they solve cases together, partnering with Iwai’s police detective best friend, Hanasaki, Kanoko realizes she can use her talent to help instead of hurt. While this manga involves manga and mystery tropes alike, notably the outwardly lazy and greedy detective who is in fact brilliant and kind, Kanoko’s journey in finding her place is sincere. The mysteries are more Golden Age than the grim horrors typical of contemporary crime stories, driven by characters’ desperation rather than depravity. Bickering between best friends Iwai and Hanasaki punctuates the chapters, rendered in vivid caricature, but the overall style is clear and detailed in evoking the historical period in dress and street scenes.
VERDICT Miyako presents a charming historical mystery series that hits comforting genre tropes and will circulate well with readers looking for whodunits and windows into Japanese history. Give to fans of Gosho Aoyama’s Case Closed and Agatha Christie’s classics.

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