Book: The Devotion of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Number of pages: 374
Price: Rs. 350
The Devotion of Suspect X is an intriguing read. Touted as one of the biggest Japanese thrillers ever, it keeps you on the edge till its very end. At the surface, it’s a simple story of a crime and its subsequent cover-up in an attempt to evade the law. But remain with it for a while, and you will discover a subtle play between mathematics, crime and logic. Keigo Higashino deftly weaves mathematical analogies into a gripping murder plot, to give you an engaging page-turner.
Yasuko is a single mother and is employed in a small shop, Benten-tei, which sells boxed lunches. She has a teenage daughter, Misato. Tetsuya Ishigami is their next-door neighbor and a high school mathematics teacher.
Yasuko is accosted by her ex-husband one evening, leading to an unpleasant trail of events. She and her daughter become accomplices in his death and Ishigami takes it upon himself to shield them from the law. The remainder of the book traces the efforts of two detectives, aided by a physicist, to unravel the plot and zero in on the actual culprit.
As readers, we know the crime happened. We also who did it and how. What we don’t know is the finer details of the intricate web that Ishigami weaves to dodge the law. He sets alibis in place, helps Yasuko fabricate tales and offers to take all the blame upon himself. Every move of his is clinical, steeped in logic and reason. Yasuko, on the other hand, appears flustered and is constantly trying to keep pace with Ishigami’s motives. Not to mention the grueling questions that the detectives continually thrust upon her. She is also trying to make room for a fledgling romance with an old friend, without feeling overwhelmed by Ishigami’s presence in her life.
It is an intricate plot, with numerous characters and sub-layers. The language is simple and colloquial, yet effective. It is the unraveling of a murder mystery from the beginning to the end, leaving little room to get judgmental. At no point does Higashino pass moral judgment against Ishigami, Yasuko or any of the other characters in his work. What you read is what you get. There is little need to read between the lines. The name of the book might seem a little misleading initially but it beautifully falls into place at the end.
I sympathize with Yasuko for her plight, am simultaneously awed and disgusted with Ishigami and try to stay abreast with the plot. The two detectives, Kusunagi and Kishitani, aided by their physicist friend, Yukawa, will keep you turning the pages with trepidation and excitement. I was slightly chilled when I stayed up a few nights to complete the book. The silence in my room unnerved me.
The book is set in Tokyo. Took me some effort and time to get familiar with the names and places mentioned. I often went back to read a few pages in the beginning and the middle for a quick refresher of the details and conversations. I loved the plot. But it got a little abstract for me in places with Higashino getting into the details of an elegant mathematical proof and linking it to a perfect crime. I was a little disappointed with how the novel shaped up towards the end. Kinda found it dragging, with a forced end.
The Devotion of Suspect X is a good read. Fast-paced, eloquent, with detailed descriptions, well-crafted characters and high on emotions. Give it a read.
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