Review: The Devotion of Suspect X

Posted 16 April, 2012 by Lianne in Books / 1 Comment

The Devotion of Suspect X
By: Keigo Higashino

Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who thought she had finally escaped her abusive ex-husband Togashi. When he shows up one day to extort money from her, threatening both her and her teenaged daughter Misato, the situation quickly escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead on her apartment floor. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor, middle-aged high school mathematics teacher Ishigami, offers his help, disposing not only of the body but plotting the cover-up step-by-step. When the body turns up and is identified, Detective Kusanagi draws the case and Yasuko comes under suspicion. Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s manufactured alibi and yet is still sure that there’s something wrong. Kusanagi brings in Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and college friend who frequently consults with the police. Yukawa, known to the police by the nickname Professor Galileo, went to college with Ishigami. After meeting up with him again, Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami had something to do with the murder. What ensues is a high level battle of wits, as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outmaneuvering and outthinking Yukawa, who faces his most clever and determined opponent yet.

I received a copy of this book from GoodReads a short time ago (but it is now available to purchase in bookstores). The premise sounds interesting and it has received a lot of positive reviews from many book reviewers and journalists thus far. May contain some minor spoilers ahead!

Higashino does a wonderful job in setting up the atmosphere of the novel. From the first page, the reader is taken to a very subdued, very orderly world of Ishigami (almost sounds like shinigami, “death spirit” or “death god”). Once the crime is committed however, the atmosphere of the novel picks up this tense, high-strung mood that really adds to the reading of the ordeals of these characters. I should also note that the crime itself was pretty heart-pounding, which Togashi, the victim, being really quite frightful. You end up fearing for Yasuko and Misato’s safety. There are some quiet, rather dry moments, but you never lose a sense of how stressful the entire situation.

The characters are interesting and certainly adds to the grimness of the story. Ishigami is quite a character, very logical and straightforward in his interests. He manages to keep a level head throughout the entire novel that you wonder if there’s anything that would ever make him snap. It’s also a little scary how focused and controlled he is because it certainly makes it plausible that he is able to dispose a dead body. His devotion to Yasuko was interesting, but at the same time can be rather creepy in how it motivated him to act. Despite of this, his story is pretty sad because he has so much potential and he ended up as a high school math teacher. I find it curious that Higashino decided not to divulge in his backstory until the end; in a way it adds to the drama of the character but on the other hand it could’ve help garner a bit more sympathy from me towards the character early on.

Yukawa is also an interesting character. Apparently this novel is the start of a mystery series featuring the character (and a very good introduction at that). Yukawa in some ways is like Ishigami: very logical, he enjoys investigating complex math problems. But unlike Ishigami, his interests are pretty much across the board: he enjoys art and literature and history as well. I can definitely see why he was nicknamed “Professor Galileo” although I wished the author showed more of his eccentricity (though one of his colleagues catching up with him while he was eating an ice cream was amusing). Yukawa’s true brilliant comes out however towards the end of the novel when he pieces everything together. For a good chunk of the novel he just moves in and out, hanging around Ishigami but you never quite get a sense of what’s going on in his mind. But the way he and Ishigami sort of circle each other reminds me a little bit of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment.

Other characters who are also involved were interesting in their own right. Kusagani worked well as a character who is directly involved in investigating the case though at times his zeal to catch the culprit does throw him under the category of the typical overzealous cop. Yasuko is interesting as the ex-wife of the victim, trying to move on with her life and find happiness while raising her daughter. I wished we saw more of Misato, Yasuko’s daughter, because there was clearly a lot more going on with her than the reader and Yasuko realised, especially given her involvement in everything. I found myself guessing on Kudo’s motivations throughout the entire novel, especially given Yasuko’s string of bad luck with men.

Overall, The Devotion of Suspect X was an interesting read, especially once you really get into the novel. I found it intriguing how Higashino incorporated mathematics and logic into the novel as well as the finer aspects of the human psyche under a particular amount of stress. While it was interesting, I wished there was more emotionally; the characters were fascinating but aside from Yasuko, I didn’t find myself as emotional invested with the others. At times, I also thought the progression of the novel dragged a bit too slowly as characters moved from point A to point B. However, the twists and turns in this novel was thrilling to read; I thought I understood the case but apparently there are a few surprises Higashino set in store that I think readers will be surprised to find out. I recommend this novel for mystery and suspense readers.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Read the author’s biography on Wikipedia || Order this book from the Book Depository

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