Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect X

I came to know about Keigo Higashino when I watched the movie Drishyam . The movie was brilliant but it was said that the movie was based on The Devotion of Suspect X. I became quite curious about the novel but was a bit reluctant because what fun is crime fiction when you already know what’s going to happen. Finally after so many months, I picked the book.

The movie has somewhat vaguely similar plot but the overall setting and treatment is so different that watching the movie and reading the book turn out to be completely different experience. The movie is loosely inspired by the book but that’s it and this in no way interferes with the reading experience.

Now coming to the book, Set in Tokyo, The Devotion of Suspect X is a crime fiction with a difference. The reader is presented with the murder at the start of the novel.

Yasuko is a divorced, single mother who lives a quiet life along with her teenaged daughter Misato. Her life turns upside down when her abusive ex-husband Togashi barges into her life again to extort money from her. He threatens both Yasuko and Misato and somehow the situation escalates into violence and Togashi ends up dead in their apartment. Overhearing the commotion, Yasuko’s next door neighbor Ishigami who is a brilliant mathematician offers his help. He not only disposes off the body but also plots the cover up step by step.

When the body is discovered and identified, Yasuko becomes the prime suspect. Detective Kusanagi is unable to find any obvious holes in Yasuko’s alibi but instinctively knows that something is wrong. He consults Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and his college friend with astute observational skills. It turns out that Yukawa and Ishigami went to the same university and were old friends. Yukawa goes to meet him but now is convinced that Ishigami is somehow connected with the murder. What follows is a brilliant battle of wits as Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko by outthinking the police and Yukawa.

The novel is a brilliant read- both for the sheer brilliance of Ishigami’s cover up and Yukawa’s acute observational skills in his quest for the truth. The plot is tense throughout. You are already aware of the mystery behind the murder and yet are glued to the book in a different way. Ishigami tries to cover up the murder and you keep wondering if the truth would be uncovered. There are lots of twists in the plot. With two equally intelligent adversaries in the game, Higashino weaves a story that keeps the readers glued till the end.

The characters are well drawn out. Ishigami as the high school Maths teacher has a cold, calculating mind which helps him stay a step ahead of the police. Yukawa as the brilliant physicist tries to unravel the mystery by putting together the seemingly unrelated clues. Yasuko and her daughter are regular people caught up in events beyond their choosing. And yet I couldn’t sympathize with Yasuko due to the way she selfishly uses Ishigami without any sense of remorse.

There are some other interesting character dynamics at play. Yasuko starts seeing an old friend and is worried how this might jeopardize the situation as Ishigami is obviously infatuated with her. The crime has been committed but the menacing threat looms large especially when Yukawa describes Ishigami as a man who would do anything, no matter how horrific, if it was the most logical solution to a problem. The final end was like a punch in the gut. I wasn’t happy with the way it ended but then perhaps there couldn’t be a more satisfying end.

On the whole, this novel is an amazing murder mystery, brilliantly written plot with memorable characters.

Title : The Devotion of Suspect X
Author : Keigo Higashino
Publisher : Hachette India
Published : 2012 ( Originally in 2005)
Genre : Crime Fiction
Pages : 374

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