Friday, May 31, 2013

How far can you go? The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

"The Japanese Stieg Larsson" reads the blurb on the cover. For me, that is hardly an incentive to pick up the book. In fact, it is actually a put-off, Larsson being one writer I have sworn off. But then the Indian newspapers are suddenly filled with praise for Keigo Higashino, and Ellie Warren @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm decides to celebrate a Japanese Literature month, and so I give in and pick up Higashino's first book: The Devotion of Suspect X. And am I glad I did!


 


Yasuko Hanaoka is a single-mother working in a small restaurant that provides boxed lunches. One of her regular customers happens to be her neighbour, Tetsuya Ishigami,  who teaches maths at a school nearby. The owners of the restaurant joke that he only comes to see Yasuko. But Yasako feels no interest in the man as after having two failed marriages, she simply wants to bring up her daughter, Misato.

One day, however, her second husband, Shunji Togashi turns up on her door step. An abusive man, with a history of violence, Togashi, alternatingly  threatening and cajoling, is able to extract money from Yasuko. Even as he is leaving, he gets into an altercation with Misato and starts beating the young girl. In desperation, Yasuko hits Togashi on his head. Before quite realising it, mother and daughter have given way to their pent-up frustration and killed the man... and now they have his corpse on their hand. Even before they can get hold of their bearings, there is a knock on the door. It is Ishigami who has come to inquire about the commotion. Yasuko tells him that they were frightened by cockroaches (??? Don't they have rats in Japan? I mean cockroaches!!!) and he pushes off. Before mother and daughter can sigh in relief however, the phone rings. It is Ishigami again who tells Yasuko that he knows what exactly has happened and volunteers to help. Then he steps in, talks of disposing the body, and offers advice as to what to do next.

Police investigation begins with the entry of  police-detectives Kusangi and Kishitani. They interrogate Yasuko and Misato and though he has nothing to go on, Kusangi is convinced that they are hiding something.   He asks his friend Dr. Manabu Yukawa ( Higashino's recurring character referred to as Detective Galileo) for help. Yukawa, a physicist and a university friend of Kusangi, gets interested in the case as he knew Ishigami in the university and knows that his is a very brilliant mind. Yukawa also becomes convinced that Ishigami is somehow involved with the murder. From then on, these two brilliant minds are locked in a battle of wits.

Things get further complicated when Yasuko meets an old acquaintance, Kudo, and finds herself falling in love with him. However, she worries about Ishigami's reaction and fears that he'd withdraw his protection if she does not reciprocate his feelings. At the same time, she wonders whether her entire life would be spent in-debted to Ishigami. Meanwhile, the cat-and-mouse game continues between Yukawa and Ishigami... but unlike a mathematical equation, life usually throws a spanner in the most perfect plots.


I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The characters, the setting, the plot, everything was top-notch. And the twist in the end (which I did not see coming) was the cherry on the top. Now I am eager to read the next book in the series.



BTW, the only comparison with Larsson seems to be in terms of sale. Like Larsson's books, this thriller too is a phenomenal best-seller, having sold 2 Million copies.

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First Line: At 7: 35 A.M, Ishigami left his apartment as he did every weekday morning.

Title: The Devotion of Suspect X

Original Title: Yōgisha Ekkusu no Kenshin?

Original Language: Japanese

Author: Keigo Higashino

Translator: Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander

Publication Details: London: Little, Brown, 2011

First Published: 2005

Pages: 374

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The book is available easily in book shops on the net. I borrowed it from the college library.

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Submitted for the 2013 Translation Challenge



Also submitted for the following challenges: 52 Books in 52 Weeks, 2013 Genre Variety, 2013 Mystery/Crime, Criminal plots III, Let Me Count the Ways, New Authors, What Countries Have I Visited?

12 comments:

  1. I just recently picked a copy of this up from a charity shop. It sounds really good, I think I will probably get started on it soon. The Stieg Larsson comparison doesn't put me off!

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  2. Wonderful! I am eager to read your views on it as I really enjoyed it and want to see how others react to it.

    Did you pick it up because of the comparison with Larsson?:)

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    1. Ha, no! I had read some other very favourable reviews of it. But had I come to this book with fresh eyes, 'The Japanese Larsson' would probably have piqued my interest. What can I say, I'm a marketer's dream.

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    2. Hope the book doesn't disappoint you. Keeping my fingers crossed.

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  3. Neeru - A fine review, for which thanks. I've always been wary of those comparisons with other authors. Two authors may have a few things in common, but really, each one's work is unique in my opinion. I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I'll be interested to see if you get the chance to read (and if you like) Salvation of a Saint.

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    1. Thanks a lot Margot. Such comparisons do not generally make sense. I am looking forward to reading SAINT, which I have heard is even better than this one.

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  4. The Larsson comparison would be a HUGE turn-off for me as well, Neer. Sometimes these cover blurb writers do more harm than good.

    But you took a chance and came up with a book you enjoyed. I"m adding this title to my list. Though lately I seem to be writing more and more about vintage titles...

    Great review, by the way.

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    1. Thanks Yvette. Blurbs are at times so misleading. Once there was a blurb comparing Sandra Brown to James M. Cain!!!

      Do read this book. I love your reviews of vintage mysteries but am interested to read your take on this too.

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  5. Very nice review. I plan to read this sometime soon. My husband read it and his opinion of it was high, like yours. So I am looking forward to i.

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    1. Thank you Tracy. Hope you like it. Looking forward to your review of the book.

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  6. I'm with you Neer, I really lost interest in the Millennium books very early on (I understand why people like the main character but the stories are often silly and just sheer pulp with nasty violence thrown in) - this sounds fascinating, thanks very much.

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    1. Thank you Sergio. To me, THE GIRL WITH A DRAGON TATTOO, had too much of sadism and sexual savagery. I was wary of picking up this book as I thought it might have the same. But no, this is a very engrossing book without any mind-numbing violence.

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