Week Seventeen: The Monday Review
Updated: Feb 1
1. The Devotion of Suspect X, Keigo Higashino
The Devotion of Suspect X is Keigo Higashino's third novel in the Detective Galileo series. Unlike a trilogy, each book in the collection can be read separately----linked only by the characters: Kusanagi and Yukawa. The Japanese thriller was awarded numberous accolades, including the 134th Naoki Prize and the 6th Honkaku Mystery Award. The English version, translated by Alexander O. Smith, was nominated for the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Novel.
The Devotion of Suspect X begins with Ishigami, a dejected maths genius and secondary-maths teacher for a school where learning is inconsequential to grade:
At 7:35 A.M., Ishigami leaves his apartment, as he does every weekday morning. He glances at the mostly full bicycle lot. He walks with his head down, chin buried in his scarf. In March, as expected, the wind is bitingly cold. It burdens him the short way to the south, about twenty yards, toward the Shin-Ohashi intersection.
But The Devotion of Suspect X is about detail and alibi. It is the mundane in a math equation. Blind spots? asks Detective Kusanagi.
Blind spots. How an equation might look like a geometry problem, but is, in fact, algebra. One might try to solve with geometric formulas, but method is invaluable to math.
Yasuko Hanaoka is a divorced single mother working at a bento shop near her daughter's school. When Togashi (her abusive ex-husband) finds Yasuko and Misato, he wears a facade of reunion, but rejected, begins to threaten both violently. The panic escalates and Togashi is murdered. Overhearing the commotion, Ishigami, who is secretly enamored with Yasuko, offers to dispose of the body and provides them with step-by-step alibis to protect them from the consequence of their self-defence.
When the body is found and identified, Kusanagi draws the case with Yasuko as the prime suspect. But her manufactured alibi holds strong, and his suspicions grow to mirror this. He seeks the advice of his college friend and physicist, Dr Yukawa, and both men find themselves with in a battle of wits as their relationship with Ishigami unfolds to reveal that all three have more common than initially-realised.
Truly, The Devotion of Suspect X is a poignant reflection on sacrifice, revelation and truth. I highly recommend.
2. Salvation of a Saint, Keigo Higashino
Keigo Higashino's Salvation of a Saint is a beautifully-drawn, devastating, increasingly-complex police procedural into the murder of a successful businessman. When Yoshitaka Mashiba is discovered poisoned-----a tipped coffee mug lying split on the floor beside his body----his beautiful, devoted wife Ayane rushed home from her return visit to family hundreds of kilometres away.
According to Higashino's hero, physics professor Manabu Yukawa, this is the perfect crime. One that cannot be determined by unfolding the present, but rather, in a resurface of the past. Similar to The Devotion of Suspect X, this novel asks the question why. Early in the narrative, we find the who.
Although I found the denoument of Higashino's fourth book in the Galileo Detective collection to be curiously fascinating, at times, I felt that the narration often repeated itself. Because I sometimes struggled to invest in the protagonists, I didn't feel as compelled by the end discovery, despite its ingenuity. I wonder if this was the case because less backstory was awarded each character, and what was afforded them was only seen in light of small conversations in the present moment. If you're curious to read a Keigo Higashino novel, I would suggest beginning with Malice or The Devotion of Suspect X instead.
3. Newcomer, Keigo Higashino
Originally published in Japanese in 2006, Higashino's Newcomer considers the uncanny, carefully, and with a thoughtfulness to the complexity of familial relationships. Although the title could refer to several characters in the novel, Newcomer most aptly connects with the brilliant Tokyo detective Kyoichiro Kaga also featured in other Higashino mysteries. Kaga has been transferred, or, as many of the locals translate, 'demoted' to the Nihonbashi district.
This was another artfully-crafted mystery, with smaller, domestic puzzles unriddled in the process. The shifting of perspectives sometimes made it a little difficult to follow the murder. The twist, too, was a bit expected. Even so, the process and revelations by which Kaga comes to uncover the murderer is as clever as always.