Friday, February 4, 2011

A Review of "The Devotion of Suspect X " [8]

The Devotion of Suspect X
by Keigo Higashino
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312375065
February 1, 2011, 304 pages

Recently on a Bloggiesta post at Rhapsody in Books' blog, she posted about the various subcategories of mystery and suspense books. But I forgot one it seems and this book, The Devotion of Suspect X, falls in that category. It is the "will they get away with it" category. We know who committed the crime, we how why, we sympathize with them, we may even want them to get away with it and the question taken on by the book is will they.

The murdered man, Togashi, is a nasty piece of work. When he comes to the apartment of his ex-wife Yasuko Hanaoka and his step-daughter, trying to extort money from them and physically threatening the girl, we are not terribly shocked when they end up, at least in part in self-defense, killing him. A bit more surprising is when their neighbor, a mild mannered math teacher named Tetsuya Ishigami, suspects what has just happened and offers to help them. He has a crush on the woman and decides, in an instant, to do whatever he must do to protect her from being arrested for the murder, and uses his considerable intelligence to concoct a plan.

We follow along as the police, as well as a professor named Yukawa, who is acquainted with both the lead detective as well as the math teacher, follow the clues, interview the suspects and try to figure what happened. We know what happened, right?
Well, it seems we may not know nearly as much as we think.

This is not a bad book, but I will tell you quite honestly, that I did not like it nearly as much as I thought I would, for a number of reasons.

First, I thought the translation was often quite awkward. This is not a story with much of a plot. The murder happens and then the majority of the book is taken up by conversations..the police talks to the teacher..the police talk to the ex-wife, the ex-wife talks to the teacher, the professor talks to the police detective...and the dialogue often seems stilted. Which is a major problem since it is a major part of the book and I suspect the translation is at least in part to blame.
Also, we never really get to know any of the characters, what they think, what they feel. In part, we see why that is at the end of the book, when we find out a rather major deception that we have been led to believe, but it does really leave us with a character to identify with. Oddly, as I only discovered after I had finished the book, this is part of a series in Japan, starring Professor Yukawa. Yet we don't even seem to get to know much about him or feel able to identify with him, which I suspect we should if he is at the center of a series. Also, the book is set in a Japanese city, which I thought would be really interesting. But I never really got a sense of the place the book is set in, which is a real shame.

I mentioned the ending...and a very good, surprising ending it was. A sort of double twist, which I would have appreciated a lot more if the journey there had been a bit more interesting. A good beginning, a great ending, but not quite enough to save this book for me.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book to review. 


  1. I'm taking it that this is not the beginning of the Japanese series, but somewhere down the line. I don't really understand when foreign books are translated and published and are somewhere in the midst of a series. I know that is my anal retentiveness coming out, but still...that's how I get to know the characters. I'll keep this one in mind.

  2. I believe it is the third in a five book series...and yes, I have to agree. why not start with the first book if you are going to translate them?

  3. It is strange that they started the translation in the middle of a series. I wonder if the problem is in the book or the translation.

  4. "the police talks to the teacher..the police talk to the ex-wife, the ex-wife talks to the teacher, the professor talks to the police detective" . . .this sounds like the cat takes the mice, the mice takes the cheese, the cheese . . oh, well anyway. Unfortunately a good middle is as important as a good ending.Isn't this a police procedural?

  5. I like this category of mysteries. I can think of one other ... and it was one I really really liked ... that would fit in it: A Simple Plan by Scott Smith. Did you ever read it? If not, you should. I bet you would love it.

  6. I think it's intriguing that this book has a surprise ending when you start out knowing most of the issues surounding the commission of a crime. I like it when books approach a murder investigation from a different perspective. The law's the law but it's difficult not to stop and think when the victim of a crime see deserves what he gets. It seems very odd that Yukawa is more of a three-dimensional well-developed character readers can get to know especially when he's central to a series. A lot of mysteries and thrillers don't fully develop the characters which is disappointing, but usually the main detective is a fully-developed character. Maybe readers in Japan don't mind that?

    It's too bad this wasn't a better book since the premise is interesting and the end quite good.
    Thank you for very good review.

  7. I totally agree.
    Not about the 'good review' part, but your good


please speak up, I LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!!