The Devotion of Suspect X
by Keigo Higashino
Yasuko Hanaoka, a divorced single mother, believes she has finally left her abusive ex-husband behind her. But one day he shows up at her door, and the situation quickly spirals out of control until he ends up dead on her apartment floor. Her neighbor, the genius math teacher Ishigami, quickly steps in and offers to help them establish an alibi on the condition that they must follow his instructions to the letter. After the discovery of a brutal murder, the Tokyo Police taps the detective Kusanagi to solve the case. Presented with a series of strange clues, Kusanagi enlists the help of his friend Manabu Yukawa, a respected physics professor and former classmate of Ishigami’s. What follows is an intense battle between two brilliant minds, each move bringing them closer to the truth.
In this book, the author Higashino masterfully spins the story and had me guessing at the truth until the very end. Ishigami clearly has special feelings for Yasuko, his reason for helping her cover up the murder in the first place. He is also clearly of exceptional intelligence, and many of his actions throughout the book are rather mysterious, and some even had me suspecting his motive. Each clue revealed is even stranger than the last, leading to the inevitable, shocking truth. I especially liked how Higashino used the professor Yukawa and his conversations with the detective to help his readers understand Ishigami better. While the story is not pure suspense from beginning to end – there are plenty of more relaxing scenes that involve character building – it moves along fast enough that I always wanted to push ahead to reach the end and discover the truth.
One unfortunate aspect is that the book was translated from Japanese, resulting in a sometimes awkward sentence structure. At times, the narrative is not quite smooth, a hitch here and there breaking the flow of words. In addition, some of the dialogue sounds like the characters are speaking a second language; while correct with respect to grammar, it sometimes sounds a bit stilted and unnatural. However, this did not detract much from the story itself, and the translation in general was good, especially considering how difficult it is to capture all the nuances of the Japanese version. On the flip side, you could look at the translation as a positive – like listening to a narrator with slightly accented English, which gives the story an exotic charm.
I would recommend this book for both younger and older readers. While it is about a murder, and while the relationship between Yasuko and Ishigami is a bit complex, I did not find the way it was written to be disturbing. In addition, there is no profanity or other strong language. The Devotion of Suspect X is great if you are looking for an entertaining read, and it will brighten (or darken, however you wish to look at it) your day while also working your detective skills.