,”The Devotion of Suspect X,” the cult Japanese thriller by Keigo Higashino has at long last been translated into English.
This story of murder and its consequences, set in modern-day suburban Tokyo, is (in the words of all good book reviews) a gripping page-turner. Seriously, however clichéd that description might sound, this novel really and truly is a page-turner.
The story is – without spoiling anything for you – about a murder, about the attempt to cover it up, and the ensuing police investigation that sets out to find the murderer.
Couldn’t be simpler, right ?
And there you are so wrong.
Nothing could be less simple, for this is a novel full of twists and turns, and shadows and secrets, and ever more twists and turns, and the ending…but I cannot, and will not reveal the ending to you, as that would be nothing less than criminal. The ending is a killer.
(Apologies for the puns)
Keigo Higashino sets the story against the backdrop of ordinary, regular, day-to-day routine life in Tokyo.
This is a world of school, university, and buying take-away lunches. A world of homeless people camping quietly on waste land alongside a muddy river. A world where neighbours in apartment blocks hardly know each other, yet nod politely whenever their paths cross. A world where old university friends, now middle-aged, get together for a chat about work over excruciatingly awful cups of instant coffee. Commuting to the suburban train station, going for a movie, playing badminton – all completely mundane, unremarkable events – until you put a murder into the equation.
I use the word “equation” deliberately, because one of the main characters in the novel, Ishigami, is a brilliant mathematician, a legend to his university peers. Ishigami, fat and balding and a lifelong bachelor, is now a high school maths teacher, struggling to install a passion for mathematics in his students, but failing even to arouse a flicker of interest. In a book that is quite dark, the moments when we see Ishigami with his failing maths students provide some of the lighter moments. And when Ishigami abruptly cancels the re-re-take exam of the students who have failed even his deliberately easy re-take exam – well, your reviewer for one, wished she had had such a sympathetic maths teacher in school. We all share the relief of the poor struggling students who are saved from relegation.
The central characters of the book are very much “there” for us the reader, but we are never told too much about their innermost thoughts, despite the dramatic events in which they are all caught up. One stays at a certain remove from them, although hoping all along that events will turn out in a certain way (which I can’t explain here, obviously) but there isn’t too much emotional involvement with them as people.
Rather, the mathematical imagery that is so fundamental to the plot takes over and drives the narrative.
Actions and their consequences.
The probabilities of x result if z happens – the plot is almost like a maths formula (but don’t let that put you off, really and truly) working through to its natural and logical conclusion.
Except that it isn’t.
Read this page-turner for its cleverness, its twists and turns and its unexpected and dramatic ending.
A truly great read.
The paperback is published in India by Hachette and costs Rs 350.
After reading this, if you feel like reading this book (and you really should !) just click on the link below :