~written by Keigo Higashino
~translated by Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander
2005 Naoki Sanjugo Prize Winner
The Devotion of Suspect X is only the second of Keigo Higashino's works to be translated into English. (Vertical published his novel Himitsu, "Secret," under the title Naoko in 2004.) This is really too bad since he is both a popular and award-winning author in Japan. The Devotion of Suspect X is arguably his most notable book--originally published in Japan in 2005, it won him the Naoki Sanjugo Prize and was made into a film in 2008. The novel is scheduled for release in English in February 2011 by the Minotaur imprint of St. Martin's Press. I was happy to receive an advance copy of The Devotion of Suspect X through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. I was also very excited to learn that Alexander O. Smith--one of my favorite translators--worked on the novel's translation with Elye J. Alexander. I had never read any of Higashino's work before, but was really looking forward to The Devotion of Suspect X.
After Yasuko unintentionally kills her ex-husband during a violent struggle in her apartment, she is surprised when her next door neighbor, the brilliant mathematician Ishigami, offers to do all that he can to help cover up the crime. He asks for nothing in return but Yasuko and her daughter must follow his plan exactly for it to work. Incredibly, Ishigami seems to have taken into consideration all possible outcomes and the investigation proceeds just as he predicts. The detectives suspect that something isn't quite right with the situation, but the evidence tells a convincing story even if they are uneasy about it. But then Ishigami is unexpectedly reunited with Yukawa, a former university classmate, rival, and friend. Yukawa, who often acts as a consultant to the police, may be the only person in a position to see through Ishigami's schemes. However, Ishigami is prepared even for this unforeseen scenario.
Even though the characters are extremely important in The Devotion of Suspect X, the reader never really gets to connect with or know them that well, or see what's going on inside their minds. It is this not knowing that drives the story. Ishigami is terrifying in his brilliance specifically because the depth of his devotion and the lengths he is willing to go to protect Yasuko are unknown. There is no question he has helped her and her daughter and his incredible intelligence has allowed him to do this extraordinarily well. Throughout the novel, the enormity of exactly what he has done and the ultimate truth behind the situation is slowly revealed. Although I predicted some of the plot developments, I'll admit that I didn't see some of the final twists coming. Ishigami's genius is stunning and in many ways the ending is heartbreaking.
Technically, The Devotion of Suspect X is the third volume in Higashino's Galileo series, which features Manabu Yukawa. However, the book stands alone perfectly well. I wasn't even aware that it was a part of a series when I started reading it and only discovered that fact later on. I do hope that the previous two books, Tantei Galileo and Yochimu are translated because I would really like to read them now. The thing that I was most impressed by in The Devotion of Suspect X was how Higashino effectively and very subtly built tension as the novel progressed. I didn't even realize how worked up I had become until the end of the book when Higashino finally releases his grip. Occasionally, he would linger on a particular mathematical theory or concept for too long and I wouldn't necessarily call The Devotion of Suspect X a page-turner. However, I found it to be thoroughly engrossing and I really hope to read more of Higashino's work in English.