three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
52-May-June-2011
user_rating: 
0

A-The Devotion of Suspect XThe Devotion of Suspect X, a best-selling novel in Japan that was adapted for the big screen and was subsequently an Asian box office hit, is crime novelist Keigo Higashino's American debut.

The Story: Each day, reclusive high school math teacher Ishigami, who lives next door to the divorced Yasuko and her teenage daughter, visits the lunch shop where Yasuko works just so he can see his beautiful neighbor. One night, Yasuko's abusive ex-husband shows up at her apartment and threatens both her and her daughter. After a violent struggle, he ends up dead. Ishigami hears the ruckus and convinces Yasuko to do as he says: through logical thinking, he will manage the cover-up. But soon Detective Kusanagi is on the case--and his prime suspect is Yasuko. When Kusanagi joins forces with Dr. Yukawa, a physicist and Ishigami's onetime friend, a battle of wits ensues between the two logicians.
Minotaur. 304 pages. $24.99. ISBN: 9780312375065

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"Higashino has delivered a book that ratchets up tension to the end, providing excitement and insight into the psychology of modern Japan along the way. ... Higashino expertly unwinds a tale focusing on the gap between the homeless of suburban Tokyo and the intellectuals and capitalists who lord over it." Carlo Wolff

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The nexus of reason and emotion is why The Devotion of Suspect X's denouement packs such a potent punch. ... But murder does not fit neatly in boxes offered by complex formulas, where passion, sympathy, jealousy and maternal instinct all act as disruptors." Sarah Weinman

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"[An] ingeniously plotted mystery ... the brilliance of this scheme can't be fully appreciated until the conclusion of the story." Marilyn Stasio

Richmond Times-Dispatch 4 of 5 Stars
"The Devotion of Suspect X brings together three classic components: the lean police procedural, the brilliant amateur detective and the Hitchcock-like struggle for the attractive killers (and their accomplice) to outwit the investigators. What more could you want?" Doug Childers

Houston Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[A] twisty tale of unplanned murder and its exquisitely planned cover-up. ... Readers are given the same scattershot evidence in bits and pieces, invited into the formidable mind games at play, even as they get glimpses of Ishigami's darker dimensions." P.G. Koch

Washington Post 2.5 of 5 Stars
"The puzzle genre never disappeared, however, and Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X ... is a modern example of the games a clever writer can play with his readers. ... The ending might strike some readers as ingenious, but I found it simply unfair, a cheat." Patrick Anderson

Critical Summary

In this police procedural and detective novel, which the Washington Post described as a modern take on the "puzzle genre," readers best pay attention to the details if they hope to solve the crime. A story of murder and cover-up that seeks to fit murder into mathematical principles, The Devotion of Suspect X creates a challenging mind game that provoked most critics. Still, despite the emotional heft provided by the former friendship between the physicist and math teacher, as well as the web of connections between the protagonists and insight into modern Japan, a few reviewers felt that the novel's final twist defies the rules of the puzzle genre. Marilyn Stasio, crime reviewer extraordinaire for the New York Times, begged to differ, hailing the plan's "brilliance." This is an auspicious American debut, with more (in translation) to come from the author.