Higashino, Keigo - 'The Devotion of Suspect X' (translated by Alexander O Smith & Elye J Alexander)
At the beginning of THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X the reader meets mild-mannered maths teacher Ishigami as he walks to work on a route which takes him past the lunch shop, "Benten-tei" where he orders his lunch every day that his attractive neighbour, Yasuko Hanaoka, works there. They don't have much to say to each other despite being neighbours. The story then switches to Yasuko and how she and her daughter Misato have escaped from Yasuko's abusive ex-husband Togashi. And then Togashi turns up at her apartment; a fight ensues and Togashi ends up dead. Self-defence could be argued but Yasuko wants to protect her daughter from involvement with the police; help suddenly arrives from an unexpected source: their neighbour.
Ishigami swiftly deduces what's gone on and offers to make everything right for them. And so Yasuko and Misato are given a script to follow. When a body is found, the police come calling. Yasuko is naturally under suspicion but Detective Kusanagi cannot find any evidence against her, but then Kusanagi's friend Yukawa, a physicist at the University and a long-lost friend of Ishigami's becomes involved; Yukawa aka "Detective Galileo" helps out Kusanagi with some of his cases but this time, at least initially, he just wants to reconnect with an old university friend.
A dance then begins between the three: the mathematician and physicist who are both geniuses and the detective who is bright but not quite in the same league. Ishigami doesn't know how much Yukawa is acting on behalf of the police: are his questions innocent or does he suspect something? Yukawa is acting strangely and Kusanagi doesn't know why. The three circle each other until somebody apparently falters. All the while, the reader knows whodunnit but not, will they get away with it?
THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X is an interesting read. The reader gets some experience of Tokyo life: the apartments, the bikes, public transport, legal system and its homeless. I also liked the comparison of maths and physics as disciplines and how Ishigami is spending years solving a maths problem with pencil and paper (I don't think it's Fermat's Last Theorem). This is, however, rather a clinical tale, though full of suppressed emotions (especially by Ishigami). It felt almost like a play to me: there are so few characters and "sets" and there are more conversations than actions. It's a male dominated book; the female characters which started off strong, are rather passive for the most part and in need of looking after, whether by Ishigami or Kudo - an old flame. The plot is very cleverly constructed and is one that will have you going "wow!" or have you crying "cheat!" at its resolution.
It's recently been announced on Facebook that SALVATION FOR A SAINT: A DETECTIVE GALILEO NOVEL will be published in October 2012 in the US and I look forward to reading it when it reaches these shores.
Read another review of THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X.
Karen Meek, England
More crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.