Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X, by Keigo Higashino


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Author: Keigo Higashino
Publisher: Hachette India
Price: 350/-

Yasuko, lives in Tokyo suburbs with her teen daughter Misato. Yasuko works at a bento shop. She was once a nightclub hostess where she met her ex-husband, Togashi and later got divorced. After long time, she unexpectedly meets her ex-husband, who starts blackmailing her for money. He turns up one night at their apartment following her back from work. Misato attacks her stepfather with a copper flower vase. He regains his consciousness, Yasuko convinced with the intention that Togashi is about to murder her daughter, Yasuko strangled him to death with an electric cord.

Ishigami, a genius Mathematician and a schoolteacher to reluctant boys. He develops a soft spot towards his neighbor Yasuko, whom he meets at the bento shop where she works and visits only to get her glimpse. They have hardly spoken .He offers help to rescue her from the murder. The mother and daughter follow his directives in order to elude suspicion of murder when the detective investigates. Ishigami obsessively replays and adjusts his actions, using the murder to get intimate to Yasuko.

Misato attacks her stepfather with a copper flower vase. He regains his consciousness, Yasuko convinced with the intention that Togashi is about to murder her daughter, Yasuko strangled him to death with an electric cord. 

Kusanagi, the Inspector & veteran detective and his junior Kishitani, who examined the body, dumped naked and wrapped in blue plastic in a factory district, with its face bashed. The inevitable discovery of the victim’s identity leads to the pro forma questioning of both Yasuko and later Ishigami. Kishitani is ready to dismiss them as suspects, but the veteran Kusanagi puts them on a mental back burner.

Yukawa, Ishigami’s old schoolmate and once a friend, is a brilliant professor of physics, he happens to be aiding the detectives in solving the case. He is always one step ahead of the detective. Yukawa, who has helped on previous cases via his scientific insights, wouldn’t  reveal his findings to detectives for some reason.

Yukawa gets to know about Ishigami through the detectives. He meets Ishigami at his residence casually as an old friend. Then, he suspects about Ishigami’s connection with the murder. On the second meeting with him, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had some link with the murder. Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outsmarting and out-thinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and firm challenger.  The excitement of the narration is in witnessing the intellectual cut and thrust between Ishigami and Yukawa, as what appears initially to have been a fairly straightforward, even mundane exercise in alibi-creation, soon turns out to be astonishingly much more obscure.

Ishigami, a genius, appears to have covered all the aspects of the case. The suspense comes from the conspiracy and the investigation that follows. The paramount enthralling element of the entire storyline is whether the veteran detective would be able to reveal the truth. But it’s certainly up there as a distinctly above average thriller, with twists blended up nicely to keep the reader on grip with the story and to keep guessing….Towards the climax of the thriller, twist follows twist, turning everything on its head.

The excitement of the narration is in witnessing the intellectual cut and thrust between Ishigami and Yukawa, as what appears initially to have been a fairly straightforward, even mundane exercise in alibi-creation, soon turns out to be astonishingly much more obscure.

The book confronts emotions intact along with the crime which thrillers seldom cover. The cat-and-mouse game between the two intellects, the neophyte criminal mastermind and the shrewd/clever detective, engage in a cold fight to the finish line. The interplay between Ishigami and Yukawa were the book’s strongest actions. Ishigami is the key to how this entire drama plays out.

This is one of my first novel where, the reader is well aware about the motive and the suspect of the committed the murder. The suspense is in the manner the crime was roofed up to avoid detection. Initially, there was a hitch to reminisce the Japanese names of the characters, locations and routes, however, the frequent occurrence of those throughout the novel made it in ease and by the end of the book, it feels to have walked them all as well.

The score for Keigo Higashino’s ‘The devotion of Suspect X’ shall be 3.5 out of 5. It is a page-turner that can be read in a couple of quick sittings, but with a deep character study and mental analysis.

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