Monday, 7 May 2012
Kim's Review: The Devotion of Suspect X
This book has sold over 2 million copies in Japan, has been made into a cult film and has become a national obsession was the tag line that greeted me as an introduction to "The Devotion of Suspect X". Obviously, that piqued my curiosity and interest. So I went a step further to google this book. The Times called the author - Keigo Higashino "The Japanese Steig Larsson" and that was enough for me.
Inspite of being frantically busy setting up house in a new city (We just moved from Guwahati to Ahmedabad), I just HAD TO apply to review this book, since I knew I was going to order it, even if I wasn't selected to review it. Lucky me, I was chosen by blogadda.com as one of the reviewers.
Today being Sunday, I awarded myself a day of rest and started to read a book after almost 2 months. The startling thing was that the book jumped right into the murder within the first 30 pages itself after giving a complete introduction into the victim and the murderer and a clear glimpse into the motive for the murder. So where can a 'murder mystery novel' go from here, when its no longer a 'whodunnit'?
And in the answer to that question lies the genius of Keigo Higashino.
Yasuko Hanaoka is a hardworking nightclub hostess turned cashier at a bento deli. She has a daughter Misato from one of her previous marriages. Her last marriage to Shinji Togashi ended in a divorce 5 years ago when his company fired him for skimming and he turned into an abusive alcoholic. Yasuko finally gathered the courage to divorce him and stay focussed on her job and raising her daughter, however Togashi kept reappearing in her life with demands for money.
On his final visit, he turns physically abusive against Yasuko and Misato and they kill him in self defense, and Yasuko is on the verge of turning herself in to the police when her genius mathematician neighbour Mr Ishigami offers to help her out of her predicament.
What follows next is a brilliant game of cat and mouse between Mr Ishigami, Yasuko and Misato on one side, and detectives Kusanagi, Kishitani and their chief Mamiya on the other. If anything can disrupt this balance, it is the involvement of Ishigami and Kusanagi's classmate (and friend to both) from the Imperial University - the Physics Professor - Manabu Yukawa.
The Devotion of Suspect X, is engrossing and I finished it in one sitting. It is very well written and its easy to for a reader to get immersed in the story. I did begin to have my suspicions about the ending a few chapters before the end, but it still came as a stunner.
The city of Tokyo sets an interesting background to the story and is almost a character in itself. There aren't too many new terms bandied about in the book, so it can be easily read without reaching for a dictionary or google/wikipedia.
I would have loved a little more detail into the bento boxes being sold at Benten-Tai and more details into the culture and customs, but I think the author initially wrote the book with a local rather than an international audience in mind, so he just glides over these aspects.
Also in the final chapter, Misato's character is left hanging in the balance and I wondered how Yasuko takes the decision that she does. In the entire book she is an extremely concerned mother, trying to protect her daughter from everything, in light of this and her other circumstances, her final decision comes as a surprise - Is assuaging her own guilt more important to her than protecting her daughter?
I do not know how much has got lost in translation, but the story is still a very good one and definitely worth a read if you like good crime/mystery fiction. I'm also looking forward to watching the movie.
Rating: 3.75 / 5
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