Of course, it goes without saying that those who aren't fans of Death Note need not even consider reading this book. Similarly, those who spent the series rooting for Light (you poor saps!) may be a bit bummed out by the story found herein. Another Note has little to do with Shinigami, with Kira, or with Yagami San. Thankfully, it also has nothing to do with Misa. God, I hate Misa. No, this is not a key extension of the Death Note saga. Instead, it tells the story briefly alluded to in the series, the story of the bizarre series of murders that resulted in L working with Naomi Misora. It's a proper detective novel, in the sense that it features a group of sleuths working to solve a mystery whose solution isn't known to the audience until the very end (although they are invited to play along). The mystery in question is that of the Los Angeles BB murder cases, a series of grizzly homicides scattered throughout L.A. The scene of each killing is laden with hidden clues that can point those clever enough to decode them to the next victim. For reasons all his own, L sees this as a direct challenge to himself, and after three murders have taken place, he steps in to prevent the fourth. He uses his substantial influence to recruit Misora (whom he chose virtually by chance), manipulating her through his own clever and indirect means.
The strengths of the novel are many. First of all, it's a dream come true for L fans (trust me, I adore the hell out of that sugar-sucking insomniac, so I know what I'm talking about). It reveals a good deal about his background and the nature of his work, allowing readers a peak behind the smoke and mirrors with which he operates. It cements his legend as the greatest detective the world has ever seen, and simultaneously reveals his most dangerous weaknesses and compulsions. Indeed, this is as much a study of L's passive-aggressive ego as it is a look at his phenomenal detective skills. And then there's the fact that Another Note is simply a gripping story- it's got a dark atmosphere, great characters, and a labyrinthine plot (with a solution that'll turn your brain inside out). It's also quite refreshing to see a story where Naomi Misora isn't a wasted opportunity (from a narrative standpoint). Her death in the series itself was stunningly untimely, as her obvious intelligence and resolve could have made her a truly compelling character. Here, she reaches her potential, working beside L with startling ability and intuition.
A few flaws knock this book down a peg: The beginning is a bit boring, and the ending (despite the cool denouement) feels rushed and dry. The final chapter is a dreary, abstracted explanation of the mystery's solution, its tone suggesting that the author simply wanted to finish the damn novel and get on with his life. It's a strangely anticlimactic way to finish things off, and it saps the story's resolution of its inherent drama. In addition, there are a few other hackneyed plot contrivances. And the character names are terrible.
But these little things aside, Another Note is an excellent novel, and author's hints that a couple more prequels are forthcoming fill me with smiles.