Monster 7 by Naoki Urasawa: A-

From the back cover:
When Johan works his way into the inner circle of powerful financier Hans Schuwald, things get dicey for Richard Brown, a private detective hired to find Schuwald’s long-lost son. As Richard edges closer to a horrifying truth, his path clashes with Johan’s hidden agenda—and his unfortunate fate is all but sealed.

I’d say the back cover blurb was spoilery, but really, that’s pretty much what happens when you interfere with Johan.

Tenma appears very little this volume, which mostly focuses on the efforts of Richard Brown, an ex-cop turned private detective, to work out what his unsolved cases have in common. I love how Urasawa is able to flesh out this character so well and so quickly. Plus, his investigation is interesting, since it seems to indicate that Johan systematically murdered people close to the rich old dude (from the last volume) over a period of years to ensure he’d be good and lonely when Johan’s plan came to fruition.

I also like how everything Johan does is suspicious and how it’s not been confirmed yet whether the multiple personality thing is true. There’s a scene where I was sure he was going to betray a friend in a very straightforward way, and was dreading that even more than further killing, but then it didn’t play out as I was expecting. While on the one hand I really like being puzzled about Johan’s mental state and motives, sometimes the confusion gets to be a bit much. He has so many plots and schemes going that it’s difficult to keep them straight, and I really have no idea what’s up with these people pretending to be his parents.

Another thing I like about this volume is that Richard’s former therapist gets into the act of trying to prove Johan’s guilt, and brings the clinical psychologist from volume five back to help. Even though Tenma isn’t trying to prove his innocence, it’s still heartening to see that he isn’t alone anymore. Volume seven ends on a cliffhanger (I love Deiter) but I think I may need a mental palate cleanser before tackling volume eight.

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