Sunday, January 2, 2011
The Devotion of Supsect X by Keigo Higashino
A battle of wits, January 2, 2011
This is a very clever mystery novel originally written in Japanese and translated into English and is this author's first major English publication. Apparently this novel is a continuation of a popular serial drama, Galileo, and has also been made into a Japanese film, Suspect-X that was released in 2008. The recurring character in the series is Manabu Yukawa, a brilliant physics professor at Imperial University who is respectfully called Detective Galileo. He assists the local police sometimes with particularly vexsome cases, and this murder is one of those.
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced mother working in a box lunch shop. She left her old life as a hostess behind and is trying to live a quiet existence while raising her teenage daughter, Misato. Unfortunately for her, she has a deadbeat ex-husband who is looking for her and who wants to get back together and who wants money. When he comes to extort her and threatens to harm her daughter at her apartment on that fateful evening, she and her daughter murder Shinji Togashi. Overhearing the scuffle, next door neighbor -- a mathematics teacher named Tetsuya Ishigami -- comes to her door and offers Yasuko total salvation. He tells her that he will take care of everything and will help them avoid prosecution and imprisonment if only they do exactly as he says.
Although the lead detectives on the case suspect that the alibis of Yasuko and her Misato aren't quite ironclad, police are confused about whether or not they are truly suspects in the murder. With fantastic misdirection and precise circumlocution directed behind the scenes by Ishigami, the pair are continuing their daily lives as if innocent. Meanwhile the intrepid and faithful Ishigami is still pulling the strings of the investigation. Detective Kusanagi, certain that something fishy is going on, consults his friend Yukawa. It so happens that Yukawa knows Ishigami from their shared history at Imperial University where they both attended -- Yukawa majoring in physics and Ishigami in mathematics. What follows after Yukawa gets involved is a true battle of wits between the two former classmates.
I enjoyed the way the investigation unfolded and the interaction between the characters. The novel is complex and is definitely a thinking person's read. Scattered throughout are complex philosophical questions and mathematical proofs. The highly intelligent Yukawa and Ishigami provide point and counterpoint as the multilayered elements of the crime are slowly revealed. The conclusion, however, is painful. I closed the book with a profound sense of grief.
Recommend to discriminating readers. Don't be put off by this perhaps being an unfamiliar author, or by the fact that it is a translation from Japanese.