Sunday, July 21, 2013

Feels like Hitchcock

I've always wondered why there hasn't been a global Japanese crime fiction phenomenon. We all see Scandinavian crime novels everywhere. I say the Japanese ones should be just as popular. There's a certain darkness, an edginess bordering on the crazy, that make me love them.

Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X is a different kind of mystery. For one, you know early on who committed the murder and how. Another, you read the novel to find out if the Japanese detectives will eventually find out who the killer is and weed out one red herring after another. It's very stimulating, this novel is.

The murder in question involves Yasuko, a single mother to Misato who works at a food stall. Enter Togashi, her ex-husband, a man whom she hasn't seen in 5 years. One day, Togashi walks into the lunch box shop where Yasuko works. For Misato, it's all deja vu, remembering the countless times Togashi has asked her money. Naturally, the meeting leaves a bad taste in Yasuko's mouth.

When Togashi goes to the apartment where Yasuko lives, he harasses her. Things get pretty ugly to a point when Misato, out of anger, clubs Togashi in the head. Togashi then retaliates and a skirmish ensues. Yasuko panics and ends up killing Togashi by strangling him. And this is where things get a bit complicated when they receive a call from Ishigami, their neighbor, with his offer to help dispose of the body. Ishigami is the novel's Suspect X, and his devotion refers to his affection for Yasuko. We learn that he doesn't frequent the lunch box shop where Yasuko works because of the food; he is just deeply infatuated with, nay, adores Yasuko.

The body is eventually found near a river and it's identified as Togashi. Of course, we should have a smart detective, and that comes in the person of Kusanagi, who becomes dedicated to finding out the killer. Everything points to Yasuko though, despite her weak alibi. Things get complicated when the detectives discover the connection between Yasuko and Ishigami, who we now learn is a math genius. While we do know that Ishigami was the one who crafted Yasuko and Misato's alibi, we are left to question how will the police look beyond the clues and finally get Yasuko.

But Higashino still has something up his sleeve in his novel. In The Devotion to Suspect X, we are introduced to Yukawa, a brilliant physics professor at the Imperial University, who serves as an unofficial consultant to the police regarding the cases that confound them. Yukawa, who is also affectionately known as Detective Galileo, somehow comes up with his own theory regarding who really did kill Togashi and how Ishigami, who appears to have been just an accomplice in getting rid of the body, could have actually committed murder. The ending is just too priceless to spoil.

What really made the The Devotion of Suspect X truly enjoyable is the apparent battle of minds between Ishigami and Yukawa. We learn that both went to the Imperial University and who were once good friends. Ishigami becomes a master of creating a deception, a veneer, which Yukama sees right through. As I said, how Yukama reveals the whole workings of the mystery is just too juicy to spill here.

I've heard that there a new Detective Galileo novel. And if it's half as good as The Devotion of Suspect X, I will happily gobble it up. Yukawa can be so charmingly geeky.

Read this book if:
  1. You love elegant plot twists.
  2. You have the patience to wait until the end for that satisfying reveal.
  3. You have a thing for Japanese crime fiction.


fantaghiro23 said...

Interesting book, Peter! Will check it out.

Peter S. said...

It is! I'm on the hunt for the 2nd book! I hope this turns out to be one good series.

Ryan said...

So I have had this on my shelves for a few years now, waiting to be read. Once day I will read it, just not sure when.