The Devotion of Suspect X: A Novel by Keigo Higashino, translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander (New York: Minotaur Books, 2011. 304 pp)

Born in Osaka and currently living in Tokyo, Keigo Higashino is a bestselling Japanese author. He is the winner of the Edogawa Rampo Prize and the Mystery Writers of Japan, Inc. Prize.

Alexander O. Smith translates novels, manga, and video games. He has been nominated for the Eisner Award and won the ALA’s Batchelder Award for his translation of Miyuki Miyabe’s Brave Story. He lives with his family in Vermont.

Telegraphed Influences

I enjoy Mumford and Sons but they bother me. Mumford and Sons is a Grammy nominated music group from London, England. Their debut record, Sigh No More is a well-written and somewhat catchy folk album. What bothers me is that they stole another band’s sound. More specifically, Mumford’s timbre pays homage to Seattle’s own Fleet Foxes. Although bands owning a similar sound are nothing new, the fact that Mumford has found popularity using another band’s sound irks me. Just as Mumford teeters between influenced by and ripping off another band, Keigo Higashino’s the Devotion of Suspect X uses classical literature as an influence for his story.

Murder

Higashino’s first English debut fits the classic mystery mold with a few added exceptions. The Devotion of Suspect X portrays the story of Yasuko, a single mother who takes the life of her ex-husband by an act of rage and/or self-defense. Ishigami, Yasuko’s smitten neighbor and genius mathematician self-sacrificially assists in the disposal of the body and developing her alibi. However, the reader only knows that Yasuko kills her husband and Ishigami desires to help clean up the mess.
With the first few chapters setting the scene, the rest of the book exhibits a battle of wits between Ishigami, the detectives, and the mathematician’s former colleague, Yakuwa the physicist.
While the book continued to entertain me throughout, it felt shallow. Often I read descriptions of how an event occurred without ever hearing why the event transpired. In other words, the Devotion of Suspect X lacked the underlying depth needed to lift a story from good to great.

Have I Read This Book Before?

Containing one part Crime and Punishment and two parts A Tale of Two Cities, Higashino concocts a cocktail of murder, jealousy, and love. Yet such lofty comparisons to Dostoevsky and Dickens provide Higashino with too much credit. Truthfully, the Devotion of Suspect X carries little underlying significance. The book contains no cultural critiques and social commentary; it is merely an entertaining book.
Just as Mumford and Sons liberally seasons its music with the Fleet Foxes’ sound, Higashino leans heavily on Dostoevsky and Dickens. Likewise, my annoyance for Mumford and Sons translates well to the Devotion of Suspect X because of its clear classic influences and lack of depth. I recommend this book only if you are interested in a decent, surface-level story.

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  • inkslingerblog

    Hmmm, seems like we have a lack of true originality here. What a shame – I hate it when that happens. However, thanks for offering an honest and thoughtful review. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

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