The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

A quick rundown… A woman murders her ex-husband and her neighbour helps to cover it up. How will the police work out what happened?

Strengths: Quirkily Japanese, an interesting way of telling a murder mystery.

Weaknesses: Focuses on the action, rather than the nuances of the characters and their motivation.

Why I read it: Very much hyped overseas, I was eagerly anticipating its release in Australia.

Pages: 384

Published: 2011

Publisher: Little, Brown

Setting: Japan

Rating: 7 out of 10

If you liked this, try: Villain by Shuichi Yoshida; Out by Natsuo Kirino

I was really looking forward to this book – completely caught up in the hype, I was stalking bookstore and ebook websites waiting to pounce. Once I finally got my hands on a copy, I began reading straight away. Perhaps my expectation of Japanese fiction has been influenced by Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84 and Yoshida’s Villain, but I was hoping for beautiful prose, an analysis of the human psyche and amazing twists and turns in the plot. Sadly, I didn’t find this in The Devotion of Suspect X.

The plot sounds promising: a woman kills her ex-husband almost by accident with an electrical cord and her neighbour (who has a bit of a crush on her) helps her to cover everything up – from disposing of the body to inventing alibis for her and her daughter. Then things start to become too controlling… We also read of the murder from the point of view of the police, and a detective’s university lecturer friend.

While The Devotion of Suspect X has elements of Japanese quirkiness (the protagonist working in a bento shop, the murder weapon being a komatsu cord) it is effectively a murder story that focuses ultimately on the solving abilities of the police rather than the minds of those involved. It could be set anywhere in the world and Japan is not used as a unique backdrop. To put it frankly, this book is overhyped.

The language is nothing special either – whether that is true of Higashino’s writing or whether there is some loss in translation, I don’t know. There’s not enough description to paint a clear scene in my mind. Instead, the narrative focuses on the action but the impact of the police solving the murder is somewhat diminished as the reader saw the majority of it in the first place. The tying up of the ‘why’ the neighbour Ishigami assisted isn’t as interesting. It all seems kind of awkward.

Would I read anymore of Higashino’s translations? Probably, as I enjoy my Japanese fiction. But I certainly won’t be rushing out to purchase them hot off the press!

9 thoughts on “The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

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  1. You’re the second one who’s said this book was less than spectacular. My friend Lesley, of Lesley’s Book Nook concurred with you and actually sent me her copy. I haven’t read it yet, but now I must say I’m not all that eager to. A big part of why I love Japanese literature is the atmospheric quality; so sad this seems to be lacking in Suspect X, even though a crime thriller is always interesting to me.

  2. Oh too bad, I was ready to pounce after reading the synopsis 🙂 Which Japanese mystery would you recommend instead? I’m in the mood for a good one 🙂

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