The Devotion of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Translator: Alexander O. Smith
From the opening pages of The Devotion of Suspect X to the final line in the book I was hooked on this murder mystery thriller with a twist.
This is the third book in the “Detective Galielo” series, and the first one in the series to be translated from Japanese to English. Don’t let the fact that this is the third book in the series dissuade you from reading this book, you will not feel lost at all. The author, Keigo Higashino, has done an excellent job of providing you with any details you need to follow along in the story and not feel like you’re missing out on something. If anything, after reading this story, you will wish that the first two books were also translated into English.
The plot is fairly straightforward. Yasuko Hanaoka, a single mother, has murdered her abusive ex-husband, Togashi. Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. In this classic who-done-it with a twist, you know exactly who the killer is. At the very beginning of this book you read how Yasuko has murdered her ex-husband, and you know it’s her doing it at the time of reading. The best part of this novel is that Higashino is able to keep you interested in the story when you already know who the killer is, and why she killed him.
Hearing the commotion of murder, her next-door neighbour, Ishigami, a middled-aged high school math teacher, offers his help in covering up the murder. Having a bit of a crush on Yasuko, Ishigami, doesn’t want her to get into trouble with the police.
When Togashi’s body is eventually found, and identified as Yasuko’s ex-husband, Yasuko comes under suspicion for murder by Detective Kusangi. During the course of his investigation, Kusangi comes to speak with Ishigami. At this time it is discovered that Ishigami once went to school with a personal friend and sometimes police consultant of Kusanagi's, Dr. Manabu Yukawa, otherwise known as Professor Galielo. Kusangi becomes convinced that Yasuko is responsible for Togashi’s murder, and unable to convince his partner, he goes to speak with Professor Galielo to gain some insight. When Professor Galielo finds out Ishigami is loosely involved he becomes embroiled in the investigation with Kusangi and a battle of wits ensues between him and Ishigami. Was Ishigami’s help in covering up the death of Togashi enough for Yasuko get away with murder?
I was captivated with this novel. I found that the brilliance with this novel is that Higashino is able to keep you interested and engaged in the story even though you knew already who the killer is. From the opening paragraph and then throughout the entire story I was constantly wondering what was going to happen next. What part of the alibi that Ishigami helped concoct would fall apart and get Yasuko caught. How was Detective Kusanagi going to figure out that Yasuko was the murderer?
As the story developed I started to feel really bad for Yasuko. Here is this woman who is struggling to get by and provide a good life for her daughter, she murders her ex-husband in self defence and is caught in a terrible place. I’m not familiar with Japanese criminal law, but I had the impression reading the book that Yasuko would not be able to claim self-defense as a reason for the murder and desperate to hide the crime she accepted Ishigami’s help with covering up the murder. The more you read about her life and her abusive ex-husband, and all you want is for her to get away with it.
It’s impossible for me to say more about the story without unintentionally revealing spoilers. The interaction between the various characters seemed very real and you could imagine yourself having the same sort of conversations or thinking the same thoughts if you were in Yasuko’s place. Reading as the murder investigation unfolded, following step-by-step as Detective Kusangi goes through the paces to prove his hunch gives you a sense of the drudgery that must happen during police investigations, as they ask the same questions over and over, trying to find the lie.
The Devotion of Suspect X is an incredibly smart and intriguing mystery that will keep you guessing right to the very end. I would recommend that anyone read this book, especially if you like mysteries or noir novels.