Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Devotion of Suspect X

There is huge enthusiasm for crime fiction, past and present, in Japan, as I know well from a couple of Japanese friends – one a Reg Hill addict, another extremely keen on collecting obscure Golden Age fiction. I haven’t, though, read many crime novels written by Japanese authors and I decided to start putting this right with a recent smash hit, The Devotion of Suspect X, by Keigo Higashino.

The cover of my paperback edition carries a quote calling Higashino “the Japanese Stieg Larsson”, but although this book has sold a couple of million, it has very little in common with Larsson’s books. But that isn’t a criticism – this is a thoughtful book that is very easy to read in a translation by Alexander O.Smith.

The set-up is seemingly simple. An attractive woman, Yasuko, is plagued by her deeply unpleasant ex, and she winds up killing him, with assistance from her young daughter. A disastrous situation, but her neighbour, a quiet mathematician who is obsessed with her, helps her to conceal her crime.The police come sniffing round, and I was rather surprised that they seemed to pay little attention to other suspects, given that the victim was the sort who would make many enemies. But Yasuko’s protector outwits the cops time and again. Unfortunately, he becomes jealous when a new man enters Yasuko’s life...

This is a clever and interesting book, with occasional poignant touches. The cast of characters is small, but the cat and mouse game between the investigators and the mathematician held my interest throughout. I’m not sure it quite lives up to the hype, but that’s usually the way with mega-sellers. But if it isn’t an absolute masterpiece, it’s certainly very good, and I’m happy to recommend it. 


kathy d. said...

Although no Stieg Larsson, the author does a very skillful job here of character development and creating suspense.

I liked this book. One reason is that it is quite unusual in the descriptions of the human relationships that exist in it.

Perhaps I look at it with Western eyes, but I thought the author captured well the loneliness and sense of alienation of the protagonist, traits which contribute to his actions.

I haven't seen these personal and social characteristics to this extent in books penned by U.S. and European authors.

It's a unique read. It's portrays another side of the human condition, which I doubt is only pertinent to Japan.

The reveal of the mystery was quite interesting and not something that I've seen before.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Kathy D. Very good point about alienation and loneliness.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am bogged down in the middle due to all the discussion of timetables, stubs, phone calls. Does it get beyond such clues? I have seen little character development thus far. Maybe it's backloaded with those things?

Martin Edwards said...

Patti, our reading experiences often seem to be very similar, but I found this a fairly fast read. Quite different, though, from other books. My wife's view is much the same as yours. Character development - some revelation, but limited, I think it's fair to say.

Rahul SMS said...

In most of the Crime thrillers one is able to predict the end i.e the killer or the way the crime was committed. But the storyline weaved by Keigo just wont let u guess the end.
Not only the sleuths in the book but the readers as well chase the red herring i.e. where the killer us apprehended by the end of the book or not while the climax makes u think ÖMFG, i never thought about this".
This book dwarfs Agatha Cristie' books.
It has no big words or phrases to make u run for a dictionary.