The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X
Keigo Higashino
Alexander O. Smith (Translator)

Following up on last weeks look at Higashino's Naoko, we jump forward to the book that brought him to the public eye in English at least. The Devotion of Suspect X is a very different book from Naoko, but overall is a much better sample of the majority of the work that Higashino has been creating over the last 30 plus years.

Before getting into details, all of which will wrongly seem like spoilers, I think it's best to look at the uniqueness of Suspect X. I think it would be best to think of this as an ass-backwords mystery, meaning that we always know who the killer is and the mystery of the work comes from how they are able to get away with it.

This, of course creates a bit of difficulty, as there is the risk of disliking some of the main characters, but Higashino crafts this work to avoid such pitfalls and lead us on one hell of a ride.

So, the story: Yasuko Hanaoka kills her ex-husband. Story over, right?

Not quite, as her neighbor, Ishigami, a science teacher and bit of a genius who may have a crush on Yasuko, overhears the fight and offers to help.

Then walks in Doctor Yukawa, sometimes called Detective Galileo for his use of science in assisting the police in solving crimes. Yukawa turns out to be old friends with Ishigami when they were both set for scientific stardom back in university days.

We have a battle of wits between the old friends, one who reached his potential and sits among the elite, and the other, who gave up on any bigger dreams to settle in for the repetitive grind of teaching often unappreciative youths. The mystery is not the mystery, instead, how Ishigami stays two steps ahead is what pulls us along through this interesting and spot on fun popular mystery novel.

I bounce on this site between novels that may be considered classic cannon of Japanese literature and then what may seem to be lesser fare. That may be true, but I will continue to argue that when an author is able to find a blend of genre with skill that the enjoyment of the reading can make such a work both fun and important.

Mishima is great, but sometimes hard to stomach or enjoy. Soseki can be as slow as he was insightful. There is a place for lighter works that reminds us after a tiring day of work why we love books, and I would argue that Suspect X is a superb example of such writing. As should be evident, I love mysteries, and it is Higashino and Miyabe (along with Christie and Doyle and so many others) that keep me reading when I just don't want to read something heavy.

Very highly recommended.

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