‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino ***

My first encounter with Keigo Higashino’s works was by watching some adaptations of his novels on Japanese television, and, being a mystery lover already, I fell in love with his witty and subversive plots (my favourite tv show adaptation was “Ryuusei no Kizuna” (also known as “Ties of Shooting Stars”), but sadly the book hasn’t been translated in English – I should polish my Japanese soon so I can read it!). Needless to say, when I came across The Devotion of Suspect X, I ended up purchasing it in a heartbeat.

In The Devotion of Suspect X, Detective Kusanagi investigates a crime that is almost too perfect to be true. He seeks the help of Yukawa, a physicist who is incredibly apt to solving such mysteries and cases. This case in particular seems to be of great interest to him, since a former college colleague of his, Ishigami, a mathematician, appears to somehow be involved in this, as he is the neighbour of the prime suspect for this case, Yasuko Hanaoka.

Reading Higashino’s works is so very different from watching it. Taking into account that he is one of Japan’s best-selling authors is an adequate enough argument for the simplicity of his prose. Surely, due to the nature of his books, Higashino uses a lot of jargon from the field of mathematics and physics, but his writing style in general is quite easy to go through.

This book is so different from any other crime or mystery novels I’ve read so far. It’s not like the typical crime novel where you try to find who the culprit is – that’s information that’s already given to you from the very first chapters of the book. It’s also not like most of the Japanese crime novels I’ve encountered before, where you already know who comitted the crime. It is truly about the psychological state of the murderer and how they cope with what they have done more than about the crime itself.

The Devotion of Suspect X combines all these elements and diverts from them at the same time. Having started this book by being absolutely convinced I would adore it, I must admit that I had quite a few moments of doubt whilst reading it. The double perspective of the culprit (who knows everything) and the police investigators (who know but a few things) is certainly interesting, but I couldn’t find how that contributed to the plot overall. Also, I thought that the narrowing down of the suspects by the police came about in a bit of an absolute and sudden manner – one would expect them to investigate a bit further before deciding on pinpointing someone.

All in all, I quite enjoyed this book. It is definitely not one of Higashino’s best and the final plot twist is not as impressive as it would have been if the reader was unaware of the culprit from the set out. Still, it was a fast-paced mystery that makes you question the depth of human relationships and the human psyche more than anything else. The final question that this book will probably leave you pondering is how deeply can a person be devoted to another and in what lengths can this devotion actually lead someone?

I read this book as part of both the Japanese Literature Challenge 9 and the 20 Books of Summer challenge.

jlc9

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12 thoughts on “‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino ***

    • I never thought a Higashino plot could be mediocre, but I guess if you’ve encountered the most intricate ones, then all the rest seems to have less appeal. It still is a great story though 🙂

      • ‘Norwegian Wood’ and ‘After Dark’ are two of my most favourite books of his, as well as ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ and ‘1Q84’. ‘Kafka on the Shore’ is a great book, too, but it’s not for everyone to like. Have you read any of Murakami’s books, Alex?

      • Norwegian Wood is lovely. It really is such a charming book. So much perception in it too. Is it one of your favourite Beatles songs? I’m about a quarter of the way through Kafka on the Shore. I’m liking it’s tri-linear narration style. I’m a huge fan of Kafka too (and have been to Prague twice through work), so I should have read it years ago!

      • I’m so glad to hear you liked Norwegian Wood so much as well. Some people hate it because it’s so depressing. Actually, I got to hear the song after I read the book, because I was interested in discovering what inspired this story, and it’s one of the songs I really like now. Did you know it before reading the book?
        I’m glad to also hear you’re enjoying Kafka on the Shore 🙂 I also visited Kafka’s grave when I went to Prague last June; it’s incredible to see the city through his eyes. Perhaps you’d be interested in reading Murakami’s short story ‘Samsa in Love’ (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/10/28/samsa-in-love) – it was published in the New Yorker and it’s a very interesting reverse take on Kafka’s Metamorphosis, in which Samsa was a cockroach and one day transformed into a human.

      • The idea sounds fantastic. Thanks for the link. I’ll print it out and read it tonight. As I’m a big fan of James Thurber, I’ve always been fond of The New Yorker. I feel really uncultured now haha. All I did was buy a t-shirt (though one of the classier ones). It has the quote “Prague never lets you go… this dear little mother has sharp claws.” Was the grave busy when you were there? Are you familiar with this story of his? https://alexraphael.wordpress.com/2014/01/07/lines-of-the-day-themenrunningpast/
        I did know the song. It really does have a lovely melody, and such sweet opening lines. Do you write yourself?

      • I hope you enjoy it 🙂 I simply love it when stories refer to other stories. Haha, no need to feel uncultured, great things slip us by all the time 🙂 That’s great! I found out about the New Yorker through a fiction class I took in Poland in which we read Ishiguro’s A Village After Dark and I’ve discovered some great stories through it since.
        The grave was not at all busy when I visited, probably because it was summer, noon and terribly hot. I didn’t know this story of his, thank you for bringing it to my attention 🙂
        Yes, I do write sometimes. I had stopped for some years, but I’m slowly getting back to it now. Do you write too?

      • You do have a wandering spirit 🙂 I hope things improve in Greece and you haven’t been too affected. Which part of Poland were you in? You must have been there a while. It’s so great you write. I used to write a lot at college and uni. If you ever have the time, I’d be happy to send the shorter ones over your way, or even some of my favourite ones by regular authors. What a wonderfully written story you sent me. Thanks so much 🙂

  1. I read another blogger’s review of this novel and it immediately went on my “to buy” list as I’m feeling nostalgic for the detective genre manga I gorged on in junior high (Death Note and Detective School Q comes to mind).

    Interesting that you didn’t find it excellent. Maybe it’s because this is the most famous of the few Higashino novels that has been translated? So it’s the one most people have read. I haven’t read Higashino yet and cannot read Japanese. Any recommendations?

  2. I really enjoyed this novel. It was the first time I discovered him and the first book I read for my first Japanese Literature Challenge! I then read Malice which I didn’t enjoy so much. I am keen to keep working my way through his titles – any you recommend over others?

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