A smart whodunit with precise timing and alarmingly clever curveballs, The Devotion of Suspect X matches the murderous progression of a mathematics teacher’s proof against a physicist’s logic and a detective’s intuition. Despite knowing what really happened from the first chapter, this book will have you quickly thumbing pages, eager to figure out the end.
When Yasuko and her daughter Misato strangle Yasuko’s brutal ex-husband Togashi after a threatening encounter in their apartment, their quiet neighbor Ishigamo unexpectedly steps in to help, taking care of the body’s disposal and carefully crafting the women’s responses to the police questions sure to follow. As the formal investigation progresses, it seems that Ishigamo, a genius math scholar currently teaching at a local high school, has thought of everything. Kusanagi, the detective in charge of the inquiry, finds the facts flimsy and turns to his former classmate, Yukawa, a brilliant physicist with a predilection for amateur sleuthing and Ishigamo’s erstwhile competitor. Adding Yukawa to the equation is a factor that even Ishigamo and his legendary logic hadn’t considered, but will it matter in the end?
Normally, murder mysteries fall slightly outside my diameter of preferred reading materials. Perhaps due to a youthful overdose of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys novels. Mysteries fell off my radar entirely when I could guess endings or characters felt too shallowly developed, or, unfortunately, both. Higashino’s novel avoids both pitfalls with ease.
Be warned that it may take a few chapters for the unfamiliar names to read easily and some trite phrasing plagues the translation from Japanese —or it might also have plagued the original —, but overall the book’s unique premise and foreign culture add drama to Higashino’s already charged pacing.
If you crave an unsolvable mystery, you’ll find The Devotion of Suspect X rife with pretzeling facts and one mathematician’s murky motives.
The Devotion of Suspect X
Minotaur Books, Hardcover, February 2011
Review based on a free copy of this book, courtesy of the publisher.