Author: Keigo Higashino
Publisher: Little Brown
Year of Release: 2011
Almost all murder mysteries open with the murder scene. Not many would tell you who the murderer is though, right in the beginning. ‘Where is the mystery then?’ you may ask. Well, that precisely is the beauty of ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ by Keigo Higashino. As the story unravels, you find out more and more about a murder that appeared pretty banal when it happened. The author does not leave much to guess as to who the perpetrators of the crime are. However, the cat and mouse game that follows, as the detectives try and put the pieces of the puzzle together, makes for a very interesting read.
The story is basically a battle of wits between two college friends – a mathematician and a physicist – each trying to outsmart the other as detectives investigate a murder which prima facie appears as a simple case with the exception that the clues around the victim, many though they are, do not lead to anyone in particular. They explain the murder but reveal nothing about the murderer. As per the nature of their professions, the mathematician formulates the equation and sets the puzzle rolling. The physicist, on the other hand, observes the puzzle and uses his logic to draw an inference. Aptly put by what the mathematician tells the physicist during one of their conversations:
“It’s a famous one, the P=NP problem. Basically, it asks whether it’s more difficult to think of the solution to a problem yourself or to ascertain if someone else’s answer to the same problem is correct.”
I would leave it to the readers to find out who wins this battle of the wits and how.
The character of Ishigami, the mathematician, is very well sketched. His genius is well demonstrated and that makes him a formidable person when he draws up the plans. Yukawa, the physicist, on the other hand, is pretty loosely sketched. Except for the scenes when he tries to counter the mathematician’s arguments, he does not appear very impressive. The other characters just fill up the narration.
The book is written in easy English. I did take some time to get a hang of the Japanese names and the locations (Yes, the story is set in Japan) though. The story moves forward at a very comfortable speed except for the last three chapters which are pretty fast paced. The plot does not waver and remains focused. All the clues finally fall into place but quality deduction from the clues at hand, so essential for a good murder-mystery, is found lacking. The clues are logically connected but a stronger connection would have been better. Somehow, I fear, that this might leave the reader with a little empty feeling at the end of his reading.
Best Part of the Book: The plot does not digress a bit and it manages to maintain the intensity that every murder-mystery must.
Worst Part of the Book: Nothing in particular. Just do not compare it to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes!
Final Rating: 3.5/5