Archive for May 14th, 2012

• Title : The Devotion of Suspect X
• Author : Keigo Higashino
• Publisher : Hachette India
• Cost : 499/-

Ishigami is a middle-aged mathematics genius who works as a school teacher. He has a secret crush on Yasuko, his neighbor who is a single mother with an exploitive and abusive husband whom she avoids at all costs. When Yasuko lands in trouble, Ishigami steps in to help her out, using his simple mathematical mind to calculate his moves and those of the police. How he goes about the entire set-up forms the core of this story.
Also playing an integral part are Yukawa, Ishigami’s ex-classmate and a physics genius, the only man who can come close to deciphering Ishigami’s plan though he cannot will himself to hand over his friend to the police. The narration crackles with intensity whenever these two characters meet.
But the story is more about “Devotion”.
How aptly has this book been named. Surprisingly, what we see in the book isn’t an act of just devotion, but of pure, unadulterated , selfless love. A love so deep that it cannot be named. And when the suspect screams out in the end, we feel his frustration. Feel his love.
I never had a chance to read up on Japan or Japanese culture before, save that one book called “The Rising sun” by Michael Crichton and the Oshin series that played on DD a long time back. Where one was indicative of Japanese culture as perceived in Western settings, the other harked back to the Japan of yore.
Reading the “Devotion Of Suspect X”, I realized that Keigo Higashino has presented Japan in a manner that makes it very simple for us to understand the characters and the reasons behind their behavior. If not for the small details like sliding doors or lunch boxes, the story could have been set anywhere in the world. Some locations, like the slum dwellings under the bridge on a river can be found anywhere.
And that is what is special about this book. We can relate to the story because it could have taken place right in our neighborhood. Yasuko could be that single mother who lives across the road and Ishigami would be the school teacher we see with unseeing eyes.
It is very difficult to review this book without giving out any spoilers. I’ll try though.
The characters are very well etched. We get a definite look into what goes on in their minds but thankfully, none of the characters get into preachy monologues on the human psyche a la Agatha Christie or Ayn Rand (for the record, I LOVE these two women. No objections to the monologues in their books 😐 )
The author delves into the inner fears of the suspects, never once letting go of reality. So when Yakuso, the main suspect wonders where her love-life will lead her, she also wonders how her daughter will cope up with the new developments. Or if she will. When she has the attention of two men, she cannot decide between the one for whom she feels an inkling of love and the other for whom she feels the deepest gratitude. Who will win?
I make it sound like a love story but the book is actually a very gripping murder mystery. It isn’t as much of a whodunnit than it is a howdunnit or a whydunnit!!
The book reminded me of Agatha Christie’s “Curtain”, Poirot’s last case . There, Poirot himself commits a murder which comes out much after his death. In TDOSX a similar genius takes it upon himself to act as an accomplice to murder and lay the path that the police would follow later. He leads them on in a manner which is truly mind-boggling, until another genius figures out the motive and the plan. The mind-games that follow is what forms the chunk of the narration. There aren’t many twists and turns, but enough intrigue to keep you glued to the book.
I have just one gripe with the story. The police were depicted as hardworking men who did their best to pin the crime on the primary suspects. But not much coverage was given to their attempts to broaden their investigation. We are given no inkling as to whether the police have found any other possible suspects, except the ones who are the central characters. The subsequent investigations appear very one-sided and forced. Or maybe, as the end clarifies, that is exactly what Ishigami had predicted and planned. Whatever the case, while reading the book, I couldn’t help but wonder about the level of harassment the Police officers inflicted in the name of investigations . Also, there was content that appeared to have been ‘lost in translation’. I’m sure the Japanese version would have been even more gripping. Technically, the English version was up to the mark. No complaints there.
On another tangent, it was kind of awe-inspiring to see the way a common person reacts to the police force in Japan. No derogatory comments, no pulling down of the ‘system’. In fact, one instance that stood out for me was when one character beats up another man, the culprit’s wife makes him visit the victim and apologize. Knowing fully well that one report from the victim could land him in the banger, the character meekly follows his wife and offers his apology. The crux is that the common man respects the police force.
Wow!! I can never think of that happening here 
Do grab a copy of “The Devotion Of Suspect X”. It is truly a captivating read!! Now that I have, looking forward to watching the movie.

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