Both unusual and familiar, The Devotion of Suspect X is an unassuming mystery with an astonishing approach.
It is a book that will toy with the very definition of the concept of ‘spoilers:’ it begins with a few hours in our main characters’ daily routines, then quickly jumps into an emotional scene that results in murder. I admit that I was doubtful; how was I to stay interested in a mystery where I already knew the answers to the ‘who-what-where-why-when?’ But Hiashino is quite masterful, drawing a veil over the disposition of the body. The reader is left in a unique position of knowing more than the police about where the investigation should end, but discovering clues with the police as they work backwards.
The narrative follows both the police investigation and the viewpoint of the perpetrator(s), leaving me marveling at the chess game. Something in it puts me in mind of Agatha Christie, although it could be that she’s just the one I always think of when it comes to non-gory murder and a more nuanced form of suspense. It is a book that is as much about characters and social protocols as much as mystery, but don’t let that frighten you away. There’s a distinct whiff of literary-fiction about this as well, a story that is also about the everyday lives and the future dreams of the characters.
My complaints are very small; there was a preponderance of characters whose names began with ‘K,’ and I believe at least two had first and last names with ‘K.’ A switch from first to last name use depending on who was talking proved initially confusing and left me glad I could flip back a few pages. The ending… sigh. Appropriate, but leaving me ambivalent. The air of melancholy is too strong for me to want to add this to my library, thus the less than 5 stars.
The fact that this was a best-seller in Japan left me bemused. According to the author’s GR page, The Devotion of Suspect X was the second highest selling book in all of Japan— fiction or nonfiction—the year it was published, with over 800,000 copies sold.” I find this especially interesting when I think of the
mysteries thrillers that routinely top American best-seller lists. This is almost the exact opposite kind of story, and for me, a far more fulfilling one. It leaves me curious to check out Higashino’s other works.
Four and a half bento boxes.
Thanks to the Carols and Vivian for having left such thoughtful reviews that intrigued me enough to request it!