Usagi Yojimbo: Murder at the Inn (#139 149, UY #198 – 199) – Stan Sakai

5 out of 5

Ah, Inspector Ishida, how I’ve missed him. At the conclusion of every arc, or after every one-shot, I keep hoping the next is an Ishida murder mystery, and I know if I had them too often I’d be spoiled, but maybe I’m okay with that. Feel free to factor in my bias.

But this is also a great one, because of how it feeds in to classic murder mystery tropes, with red herrings and TONS of suspects, and a little dash of action, and fun comeuppances.

Usagi wanders across Ishida in the middle of ass-kicking business – another reason I love the dude: he can hold his own – and decides to escort him on a prisoner transport, remaining wary of said prisoner’s brother, still lurking somewheres. When a downpour looms, they stop off at an inn, which houses our cast of characters – also seeking shelter – for the mystery to come: a paper merchant, murdered, and a renowned poem he owned, burned. The first half is the crime; the second half the clues and resolution, and it’s an enjoyable bit of procedural thrills throughout, buoyed by the mixed bag of suspects (an annoying poet; the kind paper merchant; the inn-owner with the sad past; etc.) and, of course, Ishida’s characteristic sharpness.

I initially felt that Stan had dropped a detail – a character who’s called out but isn’t actually part of the story – but with the way things shaped up, I actually think this was a great bit of misdirection.