Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X

The Times and Wall Street Journal articles about The Devotion of Suspect X ask if Keigo Higashino is the next Stieg Larsson (Joyce 2011; Parry, 2011). Both novelists have been wildly popular inside and outside their respective countries. Toyko’s best-selling novelist was little known in the English-speaking world before his 3rd Detective Galileo  novel – The Devotion of Suspect X – was translated into English in 2011. The Times claims that Higashino’s thrillers, detective stories, and science fiction have garnered sales in “the Jeffrey Archer and J. K. Rowling league” (Parry 2011).

The Devotion of Suspect X was nominated for an Edgar Award and won a number of Japanese awards including the prestigious Naoki Prize. According to The Wall Street Journal, it had already sold 2.5 million copies by August 2011. The foreign rights for the novel have been sold to China, Thailand, France, Russia and Spain” (Joyce 2011).

The story begins with Togashi locating his ex-wife and daughter after their divorce. When he tries to exhort money from Yasuko and threatens their daughter, the situation escalates – ending in a violent confrontation and Toshashi’s death. Yasuko’s next-door neighbor Ishigami, a brilliant but eccentric Math teacher, hears the commotion and offers to help dispose of the body. He forms a plan to protect the wife and daughter by outwitting the law.

The Devotion of Suspect X is not a “who-done-it” or even a “why-done-it” but rather a “how-done-it.” We know who committed the crime and why. Once the detectives suspect the truth and bring a physics professor in to help with the investigation, we wonder how the math teacher will outmanoeuvre them. This is not a character- or atmosphere-driven book but one dominated by intellectual plotting. As Higashino told The Wall Street Journal, “Some writers aim to move their readers, others want to write beautiful sentences. I want readers to be continually surprised by my ideas” (Joyce 2011).

In true Conan Doyle fashion, Higashino approaches the mystery novel from the perspective of logic, reasoning, and scientific method. Before becoming a writer, he studied engineering and
worked into his late twenties for a manufacturer of car parts; this scientific and industrial background is one of the most interesting and original elements of his novels. . . . And it is tempting to see a scientific severity and precision about the plot of Suspect X, wound as tight as a watch mechanism, with an unforeseeable final twist. (Parry 2011)
One of the best parts of the book is the way the Math teacher and the Physics professor participate in “a cat-and-mouse, Dostoevsky-like investigation.” (Moyer 2011). Readers who enjoy plot-driven, Sherlock-Holmes-style mysteries will not be able to put this novel down.

Joyce, Andrew. “Crime With a Twist of Japan – Is Keigo Higashino Set to Be the Next Stieg Larsson?” The Wall Street Journal Asia. February 11, 2011.

Keigo Higashino, Keigo. The Devotion of Suspect X. 2005. Translated by Alexander O. Smith. New York: Minotaur Books, 2011.

Moyer, Jessica. “The Devotion of Suspect X.” Booklist. January 1, 2011.

Parry, Richard Lloyd. “Meet Keigo Higashino, the Japanese Stieg Larsson; Keigo Higashino’s Thrillers Set in Tokyo’s Underbelly Are About To Become a Global Phenomenon. The Times. August 12, 2011.