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Book Review: The Devotion of Suspect ‘X’

This is one of those books where the meaning of the title sinks in with full force only when you have finished reading the book. But that is something I will leave you to find about yourself.

The Devotion of Suspect X is what I call one-sitting-novel, it is written by Keigo Higashimo. It is actually third book in his Inspector Galileo series, published in 2005 and widely translated and transformed into movies and TV shows.

Yet despite its suspenseful plot, this book is not a who-dunit as any decent review will tell you. A murder happens in first chapter. The murdered man is abusive, ex-husband of Yasuko who has been stalking her for years. Suspicion naturally falls over beautiful Yasuko who only wants to protect her daughter. Yasuko, once a night club hostess now works in a box lunch place. Unexpectedly, she finds an ally in her neighbour Ishigami, who is a mathematician.

In comes an observant, honest police detective Kusanagi – to his consternation even though everything on surface seems fine – Yasuko is too gentle to commit a pre-meditated murder and she also seems to have an alibi for the night of the murder – something doesn’t ‘feel’ right. There are no other leads either. Kusanagi has an intelligent physicist friend, Dr. Manabu Yukawa as a friend in Imperial college – this man often helps him close cases. Dr. Yukawa is also nicknamed as Inspector Galileo.

The next chapters unfold the plot layer by layer. Both, the police and the accused play an astute, graceful game of chess – with two characters that stand out clearly. The mathematician and the physicist, each responding other with a move . An equal and opposite reaction. As a reader, you are hooked, curious what comes next – and yet sometimes you root for few characters. Despite the fact you know that murder happened and who committed it, the details around it as much surprise you as they mystify you when they are unravelled.

The book is not intended to be a work of literature or a brilliant masterpiece in terms of plot, even though I must mention that plot has no loopholes, and all threads link together when you go back in the story. Yet I would say, that plot is commonplace, it is instead the crafty style of presenting the mystery is the disarming feature of the book. Another is its climax – it is one that I must admit I didn’t expect. It was not only a surprise but also proved rather disturbing to my ‘emotional’ sensitivities. And yet I abide by the end.

A very fast read where plot meanders and takes new course like a fast-flowing river. If you peek carefully, characters are bland and simple – Yasuko has some claim to righteousness but is meek enough to be boring, Kusanagi’s only redeeming feature is his observation, in particular observation of his genius friend (that solves cases perhaps), Ishigami is ‘Buddha’ – nothing as ‘ill-feeling’ ever emanates from him. It is just warring of wits and the way script throws surprises so often what maketh this book.

Lastly, a note must be added to acknowledge the translation by Alexander O. Smith. Though I’ve not read the original book in Japanese, but the way translated language kept up that sense of suspense and urgency – I believe translation has been a fruitful one.

Curl in bed with book, coffee on side – you should have one ‘thrilling’ ride

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