The Hagoromo Cosmetic Stone and Company Birthday Cakes – The Snow White Murder Case, Part 2


This time we’re continuing with our series on The Snow White Murder Case (湊かなえの「白ゆき姫殺人事件」). Chapter two, titled “Colleagues 2,” has three sections, each with a different co-worker of Shirono’s speaking.

Section one is told from the perspective of Emi Mitsushima, also known as Mi-chan. She starts out presenting her business card and explains that Mi-chan comes from her surname. Suddenly, the name Yuuji Akahoshi comes up, and she asks if he is Risako’s former boyfriend. He was in her high school literature association. Now he writes for a living as a magazine journalist for The Weekly Intellect. She mentions in passing a kidnapping-murder case in Kyushu where the father was a Nobel Prize winner in physics and compared the usage of a moniker given to him by both The Weekly Intellect and The Weekly Sun.

Most of her segment reviews some of the major points of the case. She notes that Shirono is the person of interest in the “Office Lady Murder Case,” and she gives her impression and description of Shirono in detail. She considers Shirono hard to describe since she has no really strong characteristics and launches into a physical description of her that marks her as rather average. She also doesn’t consider Shirono very accomplished. Then she launches into a discussion about her skin and the cosmetics they sell at their company, particularly a “Snow White” stone. When Shirono was Emi’s partner, she taught her the finer points of preparing delicious tea for customers. This caused some friction with Noriko, which made Shirono angry and start to grumble. However, Emi never could say if Shirono was particularly happy or sad.

Then Emi starts to talk about company chief clerk Shinoyama. She suggests that he is Shinoro’s accomplice but doesn’t really elaborate on this just yet. Instead, she talks at length about lunch with Shirono in the company cafeteria or in the large conference room. Shinoyama is the company’s bachelor, and Shirono brought him some of her home cooking to eat, keeping in mind that a bachelor may find it gets him thinking about marrying her. But Shinoyama also had a meal with Noriko. Emi asks rhetorically if they both are Shinoyama’s girlfriend and if he’s two-timing them?

She also refers to a theft at the company, which Risako also mentioned very briefly in her testimony but never gave the details of. One of the items stolen was a ball point pen from the Serizawa Brothers that belonged to Noriko, and the other was cake in the office refrigerator. Shirono was on a diet and didn’t eat sweets, however. Emi talks more about “poisoned” cream puffs and Mont Blanc, but I don’t quite get that whole discussion. But Noriko’s pen was a gift from Shinoyama that Shirono knew about, so Emi thinks Shirono stole it. Emi goes back over the fact that Noriko rode in Shirono’s car on the night of the murder, but she connects this somehow to at least two company birthday parties. Shirono’s mug had the initials S and M in gold on a white background, and it seems it got cracked when it was washed. This section has a lot of new, revealing information about the women involved in the case, but it is mixed in with a lot of seemingly extraneous details, such as at the end when she mentions in passing the name of a tofu specialty restaurant.

Segment two of the chapter switches perspective to the allegedly two-timing chief clerk Satoshi Shinoyama. After a few extraneous comments about the news magazines, he mentions rice bran cosmetic products and how in the spring of the year before the “Snow White” stone product became a sudden hit. He also spends awhile talking about food and lunch. He says he doesn’t know anything about Shirono’s family or other company employees, but one thing he mentions that is interesting is that the “Snow White” stone was formerly called “Hagoromo,” which is a reference to the feathery robe of the celestial angel a fisherman stole to force her to be his wife in Japanese myth. It didn’t sell, so they changed the name. The section winds up with him acknowledging the rumor that Shirono killed Noriko and weirdly again talking about drinking and cooking tofu.

Segment three only spans a few pages and provides the perspective of witness Fumiaki Ozawa. He admits that the night of the farewell party, he was drunk. At about ten o’clock, he saw Shirono outside walking and clutching her bag. He mentions being married last August and going on his honeymoon, then talks a teacup set that he got that has the design of a white background with gold G and F clefs which could be used every day. He saw Shirono running as if she were cornered and carrying a rugby bag, and he doesn’t suspect the chief clerk in the crime. He pinpoints Shirono riding a train at about 10:20 going to Osaka.

At the end of chapter 2 is a small notation reading “Document 2 & 3 (239 page~) Reference.” So each chapter is part of the investigation.

Chapter 3 “Classmates” begins with testimony from Minori Maetani, and her section is punctuated with boldfaced headlines with a lot of breaks in the text. After her name is a line stating these things are addressed to The Weekly Sun’s Editorial Department. She has been following the news coverage of “The Shigure Valley Office Lady Murder Case” and has compiled a number of articles in this section. She is apparently a former university classmate of Shirono’s. Here are the article titles included in this segment – I’m not necessarily going to translate every word of the longer ones but just enough for you to get the gist of what this part covers:

“Did Snow White murder Snow White? Incidentally, S-san’s real name is associated with ‘Snow White.’”

“Taking advantage of working overtime together, I started to supply lunch…”

“The family had a barbecue, the children went boating on the river to collect insects, and the adults read books or napped….”

“The next day, only chestnuts were remaining on the plate.”

“S-san is also a skilled cook….”

“The night of the event, Noriko-san was seen riding in S-san’s car”

“Shigure Valley’s wild boar!”

“Using a ballpoint pen the night of the event, perhaps Noriko-san didn’t cry out.”

“Noriko-san already said farewell.”

“S-san suffered discriminatory treatment from her boss.”

“Every day, making a wonderful lunch….”

“The following week, S-San took a leave from the company due to her ‘deathly ill mother’ lie.”

Not all of these titles sound directly related to the case, and in fact a few sound like lifestyle pieces on the Shigure Valley community.

The second section is told from the perspective of Michiko Ozaki and Aya Shimada, also classmates of Shirono’s though I’m not sure what level of school they knew each other during. Since they talk about second and third year rankings, I’m going to guess they are high school classmates. That would fit the pattern with the previous segment and the next one, progressively going down in school level. This section is very conversational, and they directly address Akahoshi as they speak in places.

One of the most interesting things about this section is the idea that Shirono had the power to curse people. This also is mentioned in the next section, too, but nothing came up in the previous part of the chapter on that particular point, though Shirono’s cooking skill is in contrast highlighted.  Her cursing power was apparently discovered on a school field trip. She was brooding over the soccer captain, and they think she caused his leg to be broken. The whole class suspected her because she was laughing when she found out about it the next day. They elaborate on that idea for the rest of their interview.

The last section comes from Shingo Etou, who was a middle school classmate of Shirono’s. Like her high school friends, he also speaks immediately about Shirono’s cursing power, which he suggests everyone should know about by now. This section is the first that I’ve noticed as I’m speed reading through the book that the name Man-Malo (マンマロ) is mentioned; it’s some kind of internet service that becomes very prominent in chapter 6 of the book, which is all twitter-style or chatroom feeds, blog post reproductions and magazine articles as they would have been printed originally.

Etou launches into a discussion of his time playing soccer in school, and he describes incidents that build up the idea that Shirono was a witch. He talks about a cloth she wore on her head which somehow factors into an accident he had on his bicycle when riding to school.  On this occasion, he was coming home in the dark after club activities and crashed into a car that had appeared on a side street.  He suffered a broken femur, which his class was sure was caused by Shirono’s cursing.   He continues to talk at length about this problem.

At the end of chapter 3 is a small notation reading “Document 4 & 5 (257 page~) Reference.”

So the demonization of the main suspect in Noriko’s death is really becoming a prominent factor in the story.  I think at this point in the novel, it would be instructive to look at the actual fairy tale the story references, Grimm’s Snow White:

http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm053.html

After all, there is a lot of talk of poisoned food, plates, mugs, and other things that show up in the original fairy tale, but I may have missed the details explaining why they turned up in the story. I’m not sure what it may mean, but it is probably helpful to reference.

franz_juttner_schneewittchen_4

“The Queen Visits Snow White” by Franz Juttner (1865-1925)

Next time I’ll wrap up the novel, though it increases in its complexity by the end and will take some skill to piece together.

Part two of a three part series.

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About Lady Xiansa

Lady Xiansa is a writer, linguist, artist, and dancer. She has been a core volunteer for the Silk Screen Asian Arts Organization since 2007 and has provided content for Pitt JCS anime events since 2011. She has taught both ESL and Beginning Korean. Her novel, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak, won the Bronze Award for Young Adult Fiction E-book in the 2016 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards.
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