Book Reviews The Devotion of Suspect X

Published on January 16th, 2013 | by Michaela Buckley

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The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino

Pretty much an uninformed buy for me, I have read a number of Japanese books, Ring, Battle Royale and Haruki Murakami spring to mind, so thought I’d give the Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino a go.

The book sports some quotes from various sources, I don’t give much attention to these usually save for any name dropping and maybe if the Guardian holds the front cover. This one says “The Japanese Stieg Larsson” The Times. I read the first of the Millennium Trilogy and can happily say this is nothing like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The publisher Abacus clearly don’t know what they’re doing, they’re poorly attempting to jump on the foreign crime thriller bandwagon, not really sure why they’d choose such a mediocre basis for comparison, fortunately the Devotion of Suspect X is much better.

Abacus have also neatly decided to add newspaper nobody Metro on the book with their poignant and very powerful quote, “The ending is a killer twist”. Thanks a fucking lot Metro. As if having to wade through the rainforest when making your way onto a train wasn’t enough, this free newspaper decides to turn a fairly relaxing read into something that’ll keep you up at night, over-thinking every sordid detail. But don’t get too bloody excited, because it really isn’t much of a twist and it isn’t really at the end. So they basically failed on all fronts there.

External criticisms aside this book was thoroughly enjoyable and really doesn’t deserve to be surrounded by such a layer of crap. Crime thriller by definition alone, it really turns the genre on it’s head, the book is told by 4 people’s perspectives all revolving around a crime that has been committed, without just paraphrasing the synopsis there’s not much too say without giving away interesting plot elements. The story involves a face off between two intelligent minds a la Deathnote without the supernatural and it’s gripping stuff.

Suspect X - The woman on the left plays Mitsuko (Scythe lady) in Battle Royale.

Suspect X – The woman on the right plays Mitsuko (Scythe lady) in Battle Royale.

Written from a third person perspective the writing style is simplistic like much Japanese fiction, I’m not sure if there is a certain amount of beauty lost in translation concerning Japanese or not, but most other languages never feel quite so straight forward on read through. This however doesn’t detract from the plot and character development, the logical and methodical writing helps with relating to the crime fiction and the characters trying to work everything out.
One of the characters is a Mathematics teacher and there is a lot of reference to mathematical theories that are quite beyond my A level in the subject, it isn’t necessary for one to know any Maths to enjoy the book and all mentions are explained in Laymens terms, but I am sure that if you do get there is a lot to enjoy about the approach to the subject material.

The characters are very lovable, the book is divisive in it’s approach, they are not all on the same side so to speak, however I found I was rooting for the “bad” guy quite a lot in this, it rather reminded me of Deathnote meets Ring. You get to know the characters and what they would do in certain situations, but somehow the book still manages to twist the story so you aren’t sure what to expect, some sequences are really well played out, carefully written sections of dialogue and story segments.
There’s an enforced fast tempo to the book as you will read through it trying to find out what happens next as fast as you can. This one only took me two days.

After looking a little online I can see that the book or its author are very well known here in the west. In Japan the book sold 2 million copies and is part of a series, Detective Galileo, the author is quite a phenomenon.
There’s also an acclaimed 2008 Japanese film called Suspect X and a Korean adaptation called Perfect Number made in 2012 all based on the book.

Looking here I found that they are going to be publishing another of Higashino’s books which I am really looking forward to, Salvation of a Saint, looks like they aren’t ready to lose the awful Larsson comparison on the front cover. I just found another brilliant quote on the site, you see this on lots of books, “page-turning”. What the fuck does page-turning mean? Surely all books are page-turning? Tsk.

If you’re into crime thrillers and want to read something refreshing give it a try. If you’re looking for Hemingway then steer clear.

Perfect Number - Korean adaptation.

Perfect Number – Korean adaptation.

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