I have very much enjoyed what I’ve read of contemporary Japanese literature. Banana Yoshimoto was what got me into it originally, but since then I’ve explored a bit more and liked what I found. The Devotion of Suspect X is no exception.
In this thriller by Keigo Higashino, a hard-working single mother ends up murdering her ex-huband, an embezzler and a drunk. (This isn’t a spoiler; the book has the murder on its dust jacket!) Her neighbor, the quiet but brilliant mathematics teacher Ishigami, who has been in love with her for years, offers to help. What results is a cat-and-mouse game between Ishigami, the detectives assigned to the case, and Ishigami’s old friend, Yukawa, an equally-brilliant physics professor.
Though it’s slim, this book packs in tons of twists and turns. The reader is privy to some–by far not all–of Ishigami’s plans, so it unfolds for us as it unfolds for the detectives. I enjoyed watching Ishigami’s plot come to life, and seeing the way studying mathematics had given him an edge in figuring out how to get away with murder. (If nothing else, the book will prove to you that advanced mathematics are very relevant to multiple scenarios in life!) The interplay between Ishigami and Yukawa were some of the book’s strongest scenes, with shades of Sherlock and Moriarty never far from my mind.
It also provides a fascinating look at Japanese culture,without being overwritten. Details were worked naturally and easily into the text; for example, though they never explicitly explain what a kotatsu is, I was able to figure it out from the context. I also like when an author trusts his audience enough to figure things out, without overexplaining things! It seemed to be a faithful portrait of modern-day Japan, with small details like that dotting the story and helping it feel very real.
I didn’t see the big, final twist coming, either–which is probably as strong as a recommendation as a mystery/thriller can get. It actually took me a while to understand it, too, so I think it could surprise even the veteran thriller readers out there.
Overall, the book actually reminded me very much, in terms of pacing, tone, and choice of slightly-sociopathic hero, of The Millennium Trilogy. If you enjoyed that series, I imagine you would also like The Devotion of Suspect X!
I received this book through GoodReads’ First Reads program.
Bookwanderer Rating: Four out of five stars