The Devotion of Suspect X – Book review of a mystery thriller cult classic

Namo Namaha. I am back with a review post of another mystery thriller. This time it’s a novel that’s so popular it’s almost a cult classic! A book that’s had so many adaptations and reviews that my review could very well be redundant. But, now that I have read it I cannot stop myself from talking about it.

The Devotion of Suspect X is a Japanese mystery thriller novel authored by the renowned Keigo Higashino. This book was a trendsetter in Japanese thriller literature and still has an honorable place amongst the top three bestselling Japanese novels. It took the world by storm when it was translated to English in 2011. It’s also been adapted into movies in multiple languages such as Chinese, Korean, etc. Drishyam a Malayalam movie inspired by this book was, in turn, remade in multiple languages such as Tamil, Hindi, etc. This book was also adapted into another Tamil movie named Kolaigaran. In short, I am quite late to ‘The Devotion of Suspect X party‘ nevertheless am excited to be in it.

Book Name – The Devotion of Suspect X
Author – Keigo Higashino
Genre – Crime Mystery Thriller
Publisher – Minotaur Books
Year of publication – 2011
Goodreads rating – 4.12

Synopsis

Yasuko is a single mother to her teenage daughter. Their peaceful life is shattered, when one night, her abusive ex-husband, from whom they were hiding for the past few years, turns up at their doorstep. An unlikely ally helps them out of this tricky situation.
Detective Kusanagi is faced with a bizarre death case. No matter how he looks at it, he can neither find the nature of the death nor the reasoning behind it. Will he find the answers to the perplexing questions? Is he even asking the right questions? forms the crux of the story.

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Ruminations

Disclaimer: I saw Kolaigaran, the movie inspired by this book, in bits (I couldn’t be bothered to watch the entire movie because I couldn’t care less about the cast, sorry not so sorry 🙂 ) and I kind of learned the plot from the person who watched that movie in its entirety, lucky me! 🙂 . Also, I had seen Drishyam, hence the plot was not a complete surprise. But, I was curious about the writing and the treatment of the characters.

Japanese literature is comparatively new to me. I have tried a few Haruki Murakami books but I would be lying if I said I understood any of them. Maybe it was my age or my intellectual level at that time, I simply couldn’t grasp any of his books and dnf’d most of them. So, I was initially a little skeptical about picking a book by yet another Japanese author.

If western thrillers are like the hairpin bends on a ghat section with no security barriers and lots of life-threatening/scary twists and turns. Japanese thrillers (I have read a few since then, reviews to come soon 🙂 ) seem to be like that treacherous train journey on a seabed bridge. You can only watch the sea in awe and hope the builders have done their job well. The sea kind of scares you but you are unbelievably thrilled by the journey.

I loved the way Japanese thrillers pull you into the story slowly but surely. It’s not fast food, no cheap thrills, it’s gourmet food relished one course at a time. If I were younger I probably would have found the beginning of this thriller yawn-inducing, but now, I am amazed at the writing. Especially the precision and discipline in the thought of the author and the way he approaches the story. I cannot rave enough about the writing style or the way the story takes shape. You, have to read it to savor it. As I said it’s as solitary an experience as a beautiful train journey is.

What appealed to me?

The devotion of suspect X is a crime thriller. So it’s apparent that a crime occurs and we know pretty early in the book who the criminal is. You also are told the motive early in the book. Problem? I as a reader was not convinced of that motive. No matter how I looked at it, that motive didn’t make sense to me (Now I realize it was because the motive was told to me not shown, that technique of telling rather than showing made it harder to believe. Was it a deliberate trick by the author? Any thoughts on this, friends?).

So, I kept reading the book, because, unlike the reader, the detective has no clue about the criminal or the motive. So the reasons why detective Kusanagi follows the crime and the reason we as readers follow the story are not the same. Isn’t that genius?

The second thing I liked about the devotion of suspect X and in general about Keigo’s writing is how he didn’t waste a single word, statement or scene. Every scene, prop and sentence in the novel works to move the story forward, works to bring you one step closer to the oh! so satisfying conclusion!

Being an Indian one of my grouses is on how I have to tolerate unnecessary songs, dance, and romantic scenes in thriller movies. I.HATE.THAT! A crime has happened, who in their right mind will “imagine dance” on the alps? It’s anybody’s guess why viewers tolerate such an avoidable distraction. I especially loved this book for that lack of distraction. It was a pure crime mystery. A crime happens and people are working their whatever off to solve it. That’s it. How efficient and satisfying! Am sure my love for everything Japanese is jumping off this post, so I’ll tone it down a bit now 🙂

The third thing I liked about the book is the satisfying ending or more specifically the morality behind it. One, everybody gets what they deserve ( I hope I am not spoiling anything for the readers here.) Two, the motive which was so unbelievable, pathetic and weak in the beginning was turned on its head and it became the strongest and most plausible motive by the end of the book. How? When? Whaaaat? Is Keigo a magician?

As I mentioned before, Drishyam, an Indian movie, has been inspired by this book. Specifically, the technique used by the criminal to hoodwink the police has been used. Though I enjoyed the movie I had a major problem with it’s ending. I was worried this book might also have such an ending. I cannot say much more as it’s dangerously close to spoiler territory but my grouse with the movie had more to do with the example parents set for their kids and the kids’ reactions to adult decisions. But this book, (cue in a Chef’s kiss) the author has done such a fabulous job covering those aspects that I couldn’t have had any complaints whatsoever.

Mild spoilers ahead so if you don’t want to read it, please do jump to the conclusion section.

What didn’t appeal to me?

It’s difficult to review such a book on the first read. I probably have to re-read it a few times to make sense of the entire thing and then poke holes in the story or writing. For now, we can safely assume I am not capable of doing that yet. But, if I have to squint really hard and find fault with the story, then I would say I am not entirely convinced of the reason why the criminal surrendered themselves to the police. I mean, if they were brilliant enough to commit the perfect crime weren’t they brilliant enough to escape the police?

Why the intellectual laziness? Were they tired? resigned to their fate? Am not sure. That aspect is not yet clear to me. What was the need to surrender? It directly led to the ending this book has. I am sure the author and fans can give me a plausible explanation for my question, but as of now, this is the question that stumps me. I would be glad if any of you can answer my question in the comments section.

Conclusion

I have raved enough about this book so there’s nothing more to say about The Devotion of Suspect X but I can say that I was so impressed with this book that I jumped right into another one of Keigo’s books Malice (expect my review of that book soon, spoiler alert: I loved that book much more than this one). Also, my husband who is ‘fiction book challenged’, i.e. can’t read a fiction book at the best of the time, finished this book in two days flat. If that isn’t a miracle I don’t know what is. 🙂

Review, recommendation, and rating

Invest – worth buying and including it in your collection

Rrkreads rating – Invest grade. This is a book that must be in your thriller collection.

My GoodReads rating – 4 stars

So friends, over to you now. Have you read this book? What are your opinions and pet peeves? Do let me know in the comments section. I’ll be glad to chat. Till then, stay blessed and happy. Om Shanti.

2 thoughts on “The Devotion of Suspect X – Book review of a mystery thriller cult classic”

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