Thursday, September 05, 2013

Book Review: The devotion of Suspect X

This is not a "who"dunnit. It is a "how-was-it" dunnit. 
You know the crime, and the criminals. What you don't know is how the crime was covered up. 
The author hides everything in plain sight, and does a wonderful job of it.

The story begins innocuously, with the central characters (Tetsuya Ishigami and Yasuko Hanaoka) going about their normal routine.
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced, single mother who works at a restaurant that delivers packed meals. She has a daughter called Misato.
Ishigami is a very intelligent Mathematics teacher. He is a next-door neighbor of Yasuko and Misato.

One day Togashi (Yasuko's loser ex-husband) shows up at Yausko's apartment to extort money from her. He threatens to keep doing this and to intrude in their lives. The situation quickly goes out of hand, and Togashi is killed by mother and daughter.
Ishigami overhears the noises, and puts 2 and 2 together. He offers his help in taking care of everything - including getting rid of the body and also covering up the crime.

Inevitably the body turns up and is identified. Kusanagi (the detective investigating the murder case) starts looking at Yasuko as the obvious suspect. He tries to poke holes in her alibi but is unable to do so. 

Kusanagi frequently (unofficially) consults with Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physicist and his college friend. Yukawa and Ishigami are also batch mates from the same college.

Yukawa initally does not suspect Ishigami and he only meets him to catch up with his old friend. But slowly Yukawa is convinced that Ishigami is not just an innocent witness. 
Then we are treated to a battle of wits, where Ishigami tries to protect Yasuko and Yukawa tries to unravel the layers of deceit and get at the truth.

In the end, Yukawa does decipher what happened. He is awestruck by Ishigami's devotion which even surpasses his considerable intelligence.

The prose isn't very elegant - probably because this is a translation from a Japanese novel. But it doesn't matter. The substance more than makes up for the lack of style.

My favorite quote from the book:
"Sometimes, all you had to do was exist in order to be someone's savior."