The Devotion of Suspect X is a brilliant crime thriller. But unlike most thrillers, in this one, the reader already knows who the murderer is. So then, what is its allure?
Ishigami is a brilliant mathematician, but due to certain family troubles he wasn’t able to follow his dream of becoming an academic. Instead, he earns his living as a high school maths teacher. Known in college as the Buddha, this highly logical and practical man finds himself head over heels in love with his neighbor Yasuko. When her ex-husband tracks her down yet again, her entire life is turned upside down. Things between them reach a head and she and her daughter end up murdering him. Hearing the scuffle and deducing what has happened, Ishigami comes to their rescue. His love for Yasuko pushes him to help the mother and daughter cover up the crime. But in all of his careful planning, he couldn’t have known one thing – that Yukawa, his classmate at the Imperial University, who is a brilliant physicist himself, often helps the lead detective Kusanagi in his investigations. When he hears about the case, he learns that the Buddha is the neighbor of the suspect. Since he hasn’t seen him since their university days, he goes over to meet an old friend and adversary. From that chance interaction, and with Kusanagi discussing aspects of the case with him, Yukawa gets pulled into the hunt for the killer.
Will Ishigami win this clash of wits or will Yukawa be able to pierce through his elaborately created smoke screen?
The characters are well drawn out and believable. Ishigami, as a maths professor, has a coldly calculating mind that helps him cover up the murder. Yukawa, as a brilliant physicist, is able to piece together various, seemingly disparate clues to come ever closer to the truth. Kusanagi, the detective, is caught between these two brilliant minds. Yasuko and her daughter are regular people caught up in events not of their choosing. How their stories play out, the untangling of the plot points, the development of the plot, all of it is brilliantly done.
Keigo Higashino has created a masterful, taunt plot. He’s thrown a lot of maths problems into the novel, but even if you, like me, hate maths, you won’t find that a turn off, nor will you find any of it hard to follow. Some of the problems, in fact, are rather philosophical in nature. And no matter how much you think you know, you won’t be able to guess the twist at the end of the story.
It’s a thrilling read, both for the sheer brilliance of Ishigami’s cover up and Yukawa’s search for the truth, and for the acute observational skills of both these adversaries. You find yourself caring deeply for the characters, hoping and praying that Yukawa will be unsuccessful in his search. Will he, though? That is something you will have to find out for yourself!
Already among the biggest selling Japanese thrillers ever and the inspiration for a cult film, The Devotion of Suspect X is a must read for any crime fiction buff.