The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
Genre: Suspense Thriller
Release Date: February 1st, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Source: Personal Copy
What's it about? Yasuko Hanaoke has finally reached a good place in her life. Left behind are her days as a waitress in a nightclub as well as her abusive ex-husband, Togashi, who she divorced 5 years ago. Working a steady job at Benten-tei, a local lunch shop, she provides a decent home for her teenage daughter Misato. Everything seems to be working until one day Togashi shows up at her job demanding money. Not wanting the situation to become worse, Yasuki agrees in an attempt to keep her daughter safe until events intensify and suddenly turn deadly. Now Togashi's dead body lies in the middle of her apartment, and a stunned Yasuki has no idea what to do until her neighbor Ishigami, a high school teacher and mathematics genius, knocks on her door with a plan to dispose of the body and cover up the murder.
A few days later, Detective Kusanagi is called to a scene where a dead body has been discovered. After an initial inquiry, Yasuki's name is quickly drawn to the forefront of the investigation. While she has an airtight alibi, something in Kusanagi's gut tells him that there is more to the story than meets the eye. Unable to find a way to disprove her innocence, he calls on his friend Professor Yukawa, an astrophysicist at the local university, to help him find a hole in the story. Now the battle of wits has begun as Yukawa searches for answers to a seemingly unsolvable case, and Ishigami does everything in his power to protect Yasuki and her daughter.
What did I think? The Devotion of Suspect X is my first read for the Japanese Literature Challenge. I chose this one mainly because the plot was intriguing, and I wanted my first foray into this fascinating culture's literature to reflect modern day society. Keigo Higashino is one of Japan's bestselling mystery writers, so I figured this would be a great place to start. One thing this book conveys quite well is a sense of the mundane day-to-day life in Japan. There was definitely a relative philosophy angle integrated into the story making the overall tone of the book more highbrow instead of using violence and gore. The author creates a pretty captivating puzzle that kept me guessing until the end. Many of the twists and turns really did come as a surprise, which is a big deal in my book. Writing an adequate review is difficult because much explanation would completely spoil the story.
However, there were some negatives that kept me from falling completely for the novel. I was not a fan of the translation. The prose felt flat, and the dialogue was a little formal for my tastes. The sense of urgency that I expected from both sides didn't appear, and the characters just seemed to be going through the motions. Maybe this was due to, what I felt, was a slight lack of character development . All the requisite biographical facts were laid out, but I didn't really get a sense of how these people felt on an emotional level.
For the most part, I do recommend reading The Devotion of Suspect X, especially if you are new to Japanese literature. Yes, there are some issues, but overall I think Higashino creates a marvelous puzzle that fans of psychological thrillers will love. The characters are smart, and at times I found it hard to pick a side to root for as I read. Professor Yukawa was definitely an interesting character and appears in more books under the "Professor Galileo" series. It took me a while to get used to the unfamiliar name and place pronunciations, but I loved that this book took me out of my comfort zone. My success and enjoyment of Higashino's novel has me even more excited to tackle a Murakami in the upcoming months!