Review: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

Keigo Higashino
About the Author: At Goodreads
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Price: Rs. 350 (discounted to Rs. 263 at Flipkart)/ $ 8.66 at Amazon (Kindle edition)
Published in: 2005
Pages: 374
Genre: Japanese Thriller, Mystery, Crime
Translated into English by Alexander O. Smith 

Have you ever read a murder mystery? What usually happens? There’s a murder, you know the investigator’s side of the story and their inferences, conclusions, suspicions about the possible suspects! You travel with them, marvelling over the twists, turns and revelations as and when they discover them. BUT what if you knew the criminal’s side of the story too? What if you knew how the murder had taken place, why and by whom? If you knew what they tried to cover it up and you knew how the detectives are trying to uncover it! Sounds interesting, right? That’s what The Devotion of Suspect X is like! You know both sides of the story, where the investigation’s going wrong, yet there is mystery about everything in every page. At times you even want the criminals to get away, wishing the investigation would go wrong!!! 

Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced mother to a young girl, Misato and lives a quiet life. She’s been switching places to get rid of her ex-husband, who’s been stalking her for money. When finally she thinks he’s gone for good, he comes knocking up her door. Again. That’s when things start going totally wrong...

Ishigami, a middle aged high school maths teacher, who’s also a maths whiz, lives next door to Yasuko. They’ve never really talked except exchanging polite hellos and when Ishigami takes a lunch box from the place where Yasuko worked.

Detective Kusanagi is on a case and trying to fit together pieces of an intriguing, crazily misleading murder mystery; something that involves Yasuko and her neighbour. He’s constantly finding pieces of the mystery, but something doesn’t fit, but he doesn't know what. He consults his friend, Yukawa, a physicist who was at the same university as Ishigami and knew him to be a genius who uses logic. Being intense and observant, Yukawa gets a hint of suspicion when he goes to visit Ishigami at his apartment. He can’t get over the feeling that Ishigami has something to do with the murder and he takes it upon himself to confirm his suspicions. What follows is a battle of intellect, with Yukawa and Kusanagi working up to fit pieces together and the suspects who’ve near-perfect alibis.

My thoughts
It had been a long time since I last read any kind of mystery and never any murder mystery (I always thought it would give me the creeps!), so when I received this book from BlogAdda for review, I was already excited and a bit apprehensive. I was surprised, though. The precise details of the murder were over in about a couple of pages and it mostly was ‘trying to cover up by criminals and trying to reveal by investigators’.

The setting is in Tokyo, Japan and revolves around the lives of ordinary people. A high school maths teacher, who ate, breathed and lived mathematics, a divorced, single mother trying to sidetrack her annoying ex-husband, a research physicist with an eye for detail, all living around the city, going to work and making their living. That’s what makes it realistic and not-so-hard to believe. The descriptions of everything is just perfect- the places, the people, their behaviour, their facial expressions, the situation and its effects, the parallel experiences and moves of the criminals and the investigators. I guess I could just see a glimpse of the movie adaptation of this book and know it was based on this book! Sometimes, stories are great, but the authors fail to create an impact because of lack of descriptions. All we see is action, one scene after the other, but without lines that stall the time, it doesn’t have much of an impact. The Devotion of Suspect X, however, was totally free from this error. I LOVED the descriptions!

What made me really attached to this book, so that I stayed up way beyond my usual time and even read the book well into the other day (that too when I’m in the midst of my finals!), was the way it’s picked up on human nature, their psyche, character and the way different people think, as the basis of the mystery. What makes someone who’s just normally living, suddenly capable of murder? How do geniuses’ minds work? To what level can they take their intellectual capabilities to hide or uncover something that’s so mysterious to the ‘normal’ eye? How do the bystanders or those associated with the suspects, take it? It’s intriguing, compelling and so mysterious that I bet you would hate to leave it in the middle, what with the surprises, twists and turns thrown at you from every page! The second half of the book gave me an eerie feeling that there’s something amiss, something that doesn’t feel right, but you can’t point your finger towards it.

Apart from the mystery thing, there’s a love story. Well, not really a story but it sure plays a very important part in the mystery. There’s also something about mathematics and its beauty. Consider these lines from the book, ‘He had always thought of mathematics as a treasure hunt. First, one had to decide where to dig; then one had to determine the proper evacuation route that led to the answer. Once you had a plan, you could make formulas to fit it, and they would give you clues. If you wound up empty-handed, you had to go back to the beginning and choose another route. Only by doing this over and over, patiently, yet boldly, could you hope to find the treasure- a solution no one else had ever found’.

There were many lines in the book that left me thinking for a long time. I’ll put down a few:

‘Even if you’re at the top, there’s something even higher’

‘Some things never change, which is a kind of a relief’

‘Theories and logic are all very well, but intuition’s one of the best weapons in a detective’s arsenal’

‘They certainly had no idea what they had done. Sometimes, all you had to do was exist in order to be someone’s saviour’

‘He hadn’t realized it was possible for anyone to devote himself so utterly to another. It was as impressive as it was terrifying’

Looks like these were almost all the lines I had saved!

If like me, you were wondering what the title means, how it fits into the story, let me tell you that the meaning gets clear towards the end of the story. That’s when I thought my heart had stopped, when you read about incredible things that have happened and you didn’t have a clue! Says the Metro, ‘The ending is a killer twist’. I totally agree with that!

I received this book for review from Sign up for the Book Review program for Indian bloggers and get free books! Participate now! 

Recommended for: Mystery lovers, Young Adult and adult readers, people wanting to know how the title fits and someone looking for a great mystery!

PS- I missed it in the review, but as it says on the cover, the book’s sold more than 2 million copies! And in 2006, the author won the 134th Naoki Prize for The Devotion of Suspect X!

My Rating: 4.5/5


  1. amazing review Ashna! i am again awed by your understanding and humbled by your eloquence.. bravo! :)

    1. Thank you so much! I just loved your comment :) Do read the book if you get a chance! :)

  2. In complete agreement with Tanveer, this review was one of your most interesting. It augments the suspense by describing yet withholding facts thus making the reader want to know more, with each passing para.
    Loved it. :)

    1. Yay! I wanted to do that! Writing the review without any spoilers, yet making readers want to read it! :) It's something like you'll want to read again, after the first time. Since you know what happened, you would want to re-read it and see how things have worked out and what little details actually mean!


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