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Nobody’s Fault

Usotoki Rhetoric, volume 3

By Ritsu Miyako 

11 Oct, 2023



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Usotoki Rhetoric Volume 3 is the third tankōbon in Ritsu Miyako’s historical mystery manga series. Usotoki Rhetoric was published in Bessatsu Hana to Yume from June 26, 2012 to March 26, 20181.

Showa Era Detective Iwai Soma and assistant Urabe Kanoko board a train on a very important mission. That mission? Ducking out on the debts Soma cannot pay.

A chance encounter with Soma’s journalist sister Miyabe proves diverting. Miyabe has a genuine case, one for which her insolvent brother’s talents could be useful: the case of the doll murderer.

Is that a doll that murders? Or a doll that is murdered? The answer appears to be yes.

Shortly before falling to her death under mysterious circumstances, maid Ine claimed to have murdered a doll. Ine’s relatives would like to know if her death was accidental, murder, or suicide. To determine this, the mystery-solving troupe must visit the doll mansion.

The doll mansion takes its name from the peculiar customs of the wealthy Ayao family who lived there. The Ayaos had a single daughter, Shinako-san. For reasons having to do with the rustic customs of the backwater prefecture from which they once hailed, the Ayaos provided their daughter with a sequence of dolls, each one identical to Shinako at a particular stage of her life. The parents having died in a mishap, Shinako now lives alone save for servants.

Ine’s duties included preparing food. Seeing that one portion had been nibbled at before serving, Ine assumed a rat was responsible. She poisoned the food. Only after the food vanished, presumably on its way to her mistress, did the maid see the obvious problem with poisoning food without warning anyone. She was horrified to find a body supine on the ground … but it was only one of Shinako’s dolls.

Shinako is unworldly, her diction quaint, but she is willing to cooperate. Her hope is that allowing the detectives to poke around will put an end to the peculiar and lurid rumors surrounding the maid’s fatal fall. Once those are put to rest, the young woman will be able to return to the quiet life of a wealthy recluse.

Except … the facts of the case, when closely examined, become more bizarre, not less. What secrets are hidden in the doll mansion? Can an insightful detective and his living lie-detector assistant uncover them?


[Deliberately obscure] George Crabtree would have enjoyed this. [/deliberately obscure]

This is a classic manor house mystery, an observation that makes me wonder if the author is going to work her way through various standard mystery formats. Or at least the cozy mystery formats; I cannot see this taking a Black Mask turn.

it’s so nice to see covers with some color in them. I swear it’s like everyone’s palettes are getting reduced to muted colors and shades of gray.

One of the distractions of historical series is knowing what historical events are bearing down on the protagonists. Usotoki Rhetoric is set in the mid-1920s. The next twenty years won’t be fun; one wonders how eccentrics, particularly naïve innocents like Kanoko, will weather what is to come? It’s the same reason I hate reading books set in 2023; those people have no idea what’s coming their way.

While hanging around with scallywag Soma isn’t doing Kanako’s credit rating any favors, at least she’s getting better at understanding that there’s a difference between knowing someone is lying and knowing what the truth is. Also, she’s greatly improved her ability to spot linguistic nuance2. Go her!

This was a perfectly acceptable mystery, although somewhat compressed by the nature of the format. Tankōbon probably have about a novella’s worth of story, but the author manages to cram an enjoyable number of twists and revelations into her limited word count.

Usotoki Rhetoric Volume 3 is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo).

I did not find it at Apple Books.

1: Volume One was reviewed here. Volume Two was reviewed here.

2: One thing in particular seems designed to confound Kanoko’s lie-detecting ability, even though the speaker cannot know of its existence.