“The Devotion Of Suspect X” is an original, surprising, thought-provoking crime novel set in Japan. It’s one of the most satisfying reads I’ve had this year so far because it’s fresh, it works on so many levels and it’s entertaining.
“The Devotion Of Suspect X” sets out to do something different than a normal crime story. We know who killed whom and how pretty much from the beginning. The rest is about defeating the police investigation by out-thinking them. It becomes a reluctant duel between two genius-level thinkers who were at Imperial University together decades earlier. One is a mathematician working to cover up a killing. The other is a physicist curious to work out what really happened. This gives plenty of scope for the discussion of the nature of problem-solving, the role of assumptions in disguising meta-problems and the nature of proof.
Yet this is not a dry abstract, book. The plot is driven by ordinary people wanting ordinary things and this makes it much more than an intellectual puzzle. It’s about happiness, purpose, devotion, and guilt. It’s about what gives you the will to live and the ability to kill. Even the “dual” between the two mega-minds is not what you might expect. It’s based on a respect and understanding rather than enmity of moral conflict.
The ending caught me by surprise, not because it’s some kind of last-minute tricky twist but because the actions come from values in a culture that is not mine and brings the whole puzzle back to a human level.
The book is translated from the original Japanese. Some translations leave me feeling distant from the text or make me feel the text has been “pasteurised” into English. Alexander O. Smith’s translation kept the text vital and accessible without losing the sense of the places where Japan is alien from my Western experience.
David Pittu’s narration is flawless. You can hear a sample by clicking on the SoundCloud link below.
Don’t be put off by the “Detective Galileo #3” tag. “The Devotion Of Suspect X” works as a free-standing book. Detective Galileo is the nickname the police give to the physicist who sometimes assists them I can’t find books one, two or four in English but books five and six, “Salvation of a Saint” and “A Midsummer’s Equation” are available in English. “A Midsummer’s Equation” was made into a movie in 2013.
“The Devotion Of Suspect X” was made into a movie in 2017 in China (in Mandarin with English subtitles), with the script written by Keigo Higashino. If the trailer below is anything to go by it looks like a faithful adaptation.