"The Devotion of Suspect X" was first published in 2006. It sold millions of copies and became a national obsession in Keigo Higashino's native Japan.
Which obviously warranted an English translation.
In the opening chapters, the reader might be turned off for its lacklustre intensity. But the author clearly wanted to set up a mundane premise, only to inundate the readers with a nail-biting plot that lays ahead.
The first page of the novel introduces Ishigami, a school teacher in an ordinary narrative. By the nature of the description, we get to know that Ishigami is a mathematics genius, loner and has a crush on his next-door neighbour Yasuko Hanaoka.
Hanaoka, a beautiful single mother, has had a tumultuous life. Once everything seemed to settle, she took a job at a food joint. Far from her ex-husband, Hanaoka must have dreamt of brighter days for her teenage daughter Misako.
Ishigami and Hanaoka hardly speaks. Although they don't interact much, Ishigami develops an admiration for her. He pays regular visits to the food joint Hanaoka works.
For him, picking a lunch box is just an alibi...to see her.
Meanwhile, Hanaoka is confronted by her ex-husband Togashi. Five years after they divorced, Togashi continues to abuse them, demanding money and a reunion.
One night, Togashi pays a visit to Hanaoka's apartment. He coys with her, proposing a possible reunion. Hanaoka tries to tail him off by offering money.
Togashi was about to leave, but when his stepdaughter gets out from her room, he starts a chit chat. Apparently, Misako was not very happy to see him.
The situation quickly escalates into violence and Hanaoka ends of killing Togashi. To save her daughter, Hanaoka had no other way.
Overhearing their commotion, their next-door neighbour Ishigami drops in, offering his help.
From this point, a duo of detectives start a homicide investigation, tracing the mystery of Togashi's disappearance.
It's not a whodunit, where the storyline revolves around finding who the murderer is. In this novel, the readers already know the murderer. They only need to know how the investigation unfolds layers of shocking facts. For a mystery genre aficionado, it is a form of "howcatchem".
Those who love murder mysteries will find a lot to salivate for in this novel. Higashino's convincing writing style puts the reader in the crime scene and interrogation episodes. You'll root for the characters, regardless of where their moral compass stands.
To say the least, The Devotion of Suspect X is the kind of book you can seamlessly read in one sitting.
By the time you finish this novel, you will be scratching your head in bewilderment. The ending will linger on, possibly leaving a mark in your heart.