By Sasara Nagase and Hatipisuwan. Released in Japan as “Kandō Sareta no de Tantei-ya Hajimemasu! Jitsu wa Bōkoku no Joōda Nante Naisho Desu” by Earth Star Novels. Released in North America by J-Novel Heart. Translated by Joshua Douglass-Molloy.
Sarasa Nagase is having a pretty good year. I’m the Villainess, So I’m Taming the Final Boss is ongoing both here and in Japan, and had a mildly successful anime. The Do-Over Damsel Conquers the Dragon Emperor is also ongoing in Japan, and will be coming out here from Cross Infinite World in a month or so. And then there’s this one-shot, which might become a series, about a young woman whose life starts off in a very familiar (for readers) way but then very quickly goes off the rails. In fact, the best part of this book may be the way that it slowly squeezes out backstory bit by bit. Now, you might say “Sean, the very beginning of the book has her conversing with her talking magical hat”, and you’d be right, but even so, I was expecting a bit more standard villainess stuff than this ended up being. I suppose villainess is like isekai now – you use it to get readers.
The book opens with Octavia, the young heir to the earldom, being kicked out of her family home for being illegitimate – or so it’s claimed. Octavia herself is pretty blase about the whole thing, mostly as she knows that her destiny lies elsewhere. She was raised by her late grandmother, who has just died (which prompts the disowning) but when she lived was a famous detective. Now Octavia is off to the big city to go live in her grandmother’s house filled with mysterious items… that is if she’s not ambushed on the way there. Fortunately, she runs into a charming and suspicious young man, Raven. Unfortunately, she also meets a charming and suspicious Phantom Thief, Crow. These two are absolutely not the same person, and you’d be a fool to think so. Plus there’s no evidence. In any case, together, they fight crime!
Actually, they don’t fight crime. Octavia is a magical detective, and her main job is to find Imperial Heirlooms and register them with her magic hat before they become Demonic Heirlooms, which can wreak havoc. And honestly, there’s only one actual case, which involves a little girl and her supposedly cursed doll. The first third of the book is about Octavia escaping her family and setting up shop, and the last third is about the family trying to destroy her (and failing, because this is not a downer sort of book). It’s decent – Raven/Crow is not really the sort of shoujo boyfriend that I enjoy, but I can tolerate him. Octavia is balanced between “serious minded” and “a bit flakey”, perhaps a bit more towards the serious, but she’s entertaining. There is also a police inspector, who has the only accent in the entire book, and it’s very distracting. He doesn’t go so far as to say “Crikey, guv’ner”, but it’s close.
There might be more in the series – the webnovel finished, but this only came out last year, so who knows? As a one-shot, though, it’s a good one for those who like ladies doing cool things, though villainess fans might not find enough here to satisfy them.