Yasuko Hanaoka is a single-mother working in a small restaurant that provides boxed lunches. One of her regular customers happens to be her neighbour, Tetsuya Ishigami, who teaches maths at a school nearby. The owners of the restaurant joke that he only comes to see Yasuko. But Yasako feels no interest in the man as after having two failed marriages, she simply wants to bring up her daughter, Misato.
One day, however, her second husband, Shunji Togashi turns up on her door step. An abusive man, with a history of violence, Togashi, alternatingly threatening and cajoling, is able to extract money from Yasuko. Even as he is leaving, he gets into an altercation with Misato and starts beating the young girl. In desperation, Yasuko hits Togashi on his head. Before quite realising it, mother and daughter have given way to their pent-up frustration and killed the man… and now they have his corpse on their hand. Even before they can get hold of their bearings, there is a knock on the door. It is Ishigami who has come to inquire about the commotion. Yasuko tells him that they were frightened by cockroaches (??? Don’t they have rats in Japan? I mean cockroaches!!!) and he pushes off. Before mother and daughter can sigh in relief however, the phone rings. It is Ishigami again who tells Yasuko that he knows what exactly has happened and volunteers to help. Then he steps in, talks of disposing the body, and offers advice as to what to do next.
Police investigation begins with the entry of police-detectives Kusangi and Kishitani. They interrogate Yasuko and Misato and though he has nothing to go on, Kusangi is convinced that they are hiding something. He asks his friend Dr. Manabu Yukawa ( Higashino’s recurring character referred to as Detective Galileo) for help. Yukawa, a physicist and a university friend of Kusangi, gets interested in the case as he knew Ishigami in the university and knows that his is a very brilliant mind. Yukawa also becomes convinced that Ishigami is somehow involved with the murder. From then on, these two brilliant minds are locked in a battle of wits.
Things get further complicated when Yasuko meets an old acquaintance, Kudo, and finds herself falling in love with him. However, she worries about Ishigami’s reaction and fears that he’d withdraw his protection if she does not reciprocate his feelings. At the same time, she wonders whether her entire life would be spent in-debted to Ishigami. Meanwhile, the cat-and-mouse game continues between Yukawa and Ishigami… but unlike a mathematical equation, life usually throws a spanner in the most perfect plots.
I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The characters, the setting, the plot, everything was top-notch. And the twist in the end (which I did not see coming) was the cherry on the top. Now I am eager to read the next book in the series.
BTW, the only comparison with Larsson seems to be in terms of sale. Like Larsson’s books, this thriller too is a phenomenal best-seller, having sold 2 Million copies.
First Line: At 7: 35 A.M, Ishigami left his apartment as he did every weekday morning.
Title: The Devotion of Suspect X
Original Title: Yōgisha Ekkusu no Kenshin?
Original Language: Japanese
Author: Keigo Higashino
Translator: Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander
Publication Details: London: Little, Brown, 2011
First Published: 2005
The book is available easily in book shops on the net. I borrowed it from the college library.
Submitted for the 2013 Translation Challenge
Also submitted for the following challenges: 52 Books in 52 Weeks, 2013 Genre Variety, 2013 Mystery/Crime, Criminal plots III, Let Me Count the Ways, New Authors, What Countries Have I Visited?