ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keigo Higashino is among the top ranked mystery authors in Japan. He is among the few Japanese authors whose major works have been translated into several languages around the world and adapted for various movies and TV series.
Higashino comes from a very humble working-class family in Osaka, Japan. Even though he had started writing from his very school days, he became an engineer for sustenance. He received his first award, the Edogawa Rampo Prize, for the mystery novel, Hokago, the Mystery Writers of Japan Inc award for Himitsu, and the most prestigious award in Japanese literature, the Naoki Prize, for Yogisho X no Kenshin, which would later be translated as The Devotion of Suspect X and remains his most popular work to date. It has been adapted for movies in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Tamil. Some loosely based adaptations like Drishyam have also garnered rave reviews in India. The Netflix adaptation of the book in Hindi was officially announced in 2022.
SYNOPSIS (MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS)
Yasuko Hanaoka is a dedicated single mother raising her teenage daughter, Misato, and works at a bento shop. Yasuko has had a history of abuse with her husband, Shinji Togashi, whom she fled and settled in a small neighborhood.
Tetsuya Ishigami is a middle-aged mathematics teacher at a nearby school. He is Yasuko’s neighbor and a regular customer at the bento shop she works in. Ishigami, a genius once, has now become very reclusive and depressed. In fact, he was on the verge of suicide when Yasuko and Misato knocked at his door to introduce themselves. This warm gesture on their part was reason enough for him to live, and he even develops a secret liking for Yasuko to which she remains oblivious.
One fateful night, Togashi barges in to extort money from Yasuko. The ensuing scuffle turns out to be fatal for Togashi. Ishigami, who had been listening in on the commotion through the thin walls, comes to their aid. He offers to dispose of the body and crafts a perfect alibi for the mother and daughter. He even coaches them both step by step. When the body is finally discovered, even though it points at Yasuko, Ishigami’s measured plotting takes the case in an altogether different direction.
Shunpei Kusanagi is the veteran detective handling Togashi’s case. He is able to see through the near-perfect alibi and elaborate scene. Since he doesn’t have any evidence to prove this, his sixth sense eggs him on to investigate Yasuko’s role in the crime. He takes the help of Dr. Manabu Yukawa, Ishigami’s contemporary and a physics genius, to solve the case.
WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X
The plot of The Devotion of Suspect X is multi-layered and pretty exquisitely interwoven. It is a battle of wits between two prodigies. While most thrillers send a shiver down the readers’ spine, the entire character building and simplicity in this plot is so intriguing that one cannot help empathizing with the perpetrator. There is nothing crude or gross about this novel; the story line is sophisticated and the feelings absolute.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER ABOUT THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X
The plot is as perfect as they come. That said, once the spell is broken, it seems somewhat farfetched to have someone with feelings as unconditional and absolute as Ishigami’s. That he happened to be at the right place at the right time only adds to this implausibility.
It’s more difficult to create the problem than to solve it. All the person trying to solve the problem has to do is always respect the problem’s creator.
Kusanagi had met plenty of good, admirable people who’d been turned into murderers by circumstance. There was something about them he always seemed to sense, an aura that they shared. Somehow, their transgression freed them from the confines of a mortal existence, allowing them to perceive the great truths of the universe. At the same time, it meant they had one foot in forbidden territory. They straddled the line between sanity and madness.
When an amateur attempts to conceal something, the more complex he makes his camouflage, the deeper the grave he digs for himself. But not so a genius. The genius does something far simpler, yet something no normal person would even dream of, the last thing a normal person would think of doing. And from this siplicity, immense complexity is created.
The Devotion of Suspect X scores a perfect five on our scale. This is a classic murder mystery with no loose ends. Its build-up is intense and the climax riveting. Despite all the high-octane drama, the plot is devoid of any blood and gore, something that will endear this masterpiece to the faint-hearted no less than bolder readers.
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A reverential admirer of words, Madhu loves watching them weave their bewitching magic on cozy afternoons.