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The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Posted by RB Kollannur on July 15, 2012


Note: This review is part of a weekly book review column that I write for City Journal, an English newspaper based in Thrissur, Kerala.

Published on 18/05/2012

Publisher – Hachette; Year of Publication – 2011; Pages – 373

The Devotion of Suspect X is not a conventional murder mystery. Like all murder mysteries, it starts with a murder. A mystery writer can then entice the curiosity of the reader by giving out more clues as the plot thickens, but all the while adding more impediments to frustrate the reader. A good writer can keep the reader hooked till the end when all is revealed, only for the exasperated reader to realise the overlooked clue that could have given the answer. But there is also a sense of failure for the writer. All the evasion has come to naught.

But Keigo Higashino waives the accepted formula. He reveals the murderer at the beginning. But rest assured, it is very much a murder mystery. It is just that it has been turned around on its head. Centred on two scientists – a physicist and a mathematician, the book reveals in the competition of two brilliant minds.

The mathematician, the antagonist, true to his profession, relies on simulating the future and preparing ahead for it, waylaying the attempts of the police to identify the killer, while the physicist attempts to break down the simulation and reveal the underlying truth. Caught between them is the detective set out to solve the crime.

The reader gets to read two novels at the same time. One is the usual murder mystery, the side of police or the reader as both try to solve it. The other side is that of the criminal or the author as both try to evade their opponent. In mystery novels, the authors often have to identify themselves with the criminal. Only then can they make the novel more challenging to the reader. But it is rarely that we get to see both sides of a mystery in play.

The English translation appeared to be a bit over explanatory in parts, but it captures the emotions running in the story spectacularly. I am yet to come across any of the books by the author in my wanderings in bookstores across the country. I just happened to receive it by chance from my neighbour, Dr Jose Thaliath, who reads this column.

Mystery novels have often held a certain enchantment with most readers, especially murder mysteries. But they often get mixed up with crime novels. Unlike a crime novel, a mystery novel has a limited set of characters and relies only on the clues revealed in the book to arrive at the solution. The reader is expected to be able to solve it and there are times when the reader bests the author. The quality of the novel, though, is not based on how quickly the solution is obtained, but on the ability of the novelist to get the reader to think deep.

Keigo Higashino delivers a classic work of mystery. It takes a careful reader willing to read from the beginning and wait till the end to realise it.

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One Response to “The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino”

  1. […] of Dutch Battery by NS Madhavan (Translated by Rajesh Rammohan) – Published on 12/05/2012 10)   The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino – Published on 18/05/2012 11)   In the Name of Rome by Adrian Goldsworthy – Published on […]

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