The Devotion of Suspect X Review
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Unabridged Audiobook: 7 CDs (9 hours)
Translated by Alexander O. Smith
Read by David Pittu

Yasuko Hanaoka never seemed like the murdering type. But when her abusive ex-husband, Shinji Togashi, shows up at her door, threatening both Yasuko and her daughter, Misato, murder seems to be the only solution. After she kills Togashi, though, Yasuko doesn’t know what to do. Should she call the police and turn herself in? Should she and Misato go into hiding? The answer comes from Mr. Ishigami, the quiet math teacher next door, who immediately offers to take care of the situation—from disposing the body to planning the Hanaokas’ alibi.

When Tokyo Police Detective Kusanagi shows up at the Hanaokas’ door, they know exactly what to say, thanks to Ishigami and his detailed instructions. It seems that he’s planned every minute detail of the investigation. But even Ishigami is surprised when Dr. Manabu Yukawa gets involved. Kusanagi’s friend and consultant just happens to know Ishigami from their university days—and he immediately suspects that the brilliant mathematician knows more than he’s letting on.

Though The Devotion of Suspect X opens with an impulsive, emotional crime, the rest of the story is a cool and calculated mystery. The real mystery, after all, isn’t who killed Togashi. You know that from the beginning of the book. The real mystery is how Ishigami managed to cover up the crime—and whether Detective Kusanagi will eventually be able to put the pieces together. The resulting story, then, is a battle of wits (and wills) between a lonely scholar, his old academic friend and rival, and a calm, collected cop. For that reason, this isn’t a fast-paced chase to find the killer; it’s more of a deliberate game of chess.

Ishigami is an awkwardly intellectual loner—but he’s so smart and thoughtful that he’s able to see [just about] every detail and every angle of this real-life problem. He’s also so confident in his carefully-constructed plan that he has no problem answering Kusanagi’s questions. Even after Yukawa becomes involved in the case, he’s slow to back down. Instead, he sees the case much like one of the debates that the two academics used to have when they were studying together at the university—and he even drops a number of hints to his old friend during their conversations.

The Devotion of Suspect X isn’t an action-packed thriller—so it might be a bit too slow for those long, dull road trips—but it’s a gripping story nonetheless. Following the opening scenes, the tension builds slowly, but you’ll still be eager to see how it all plays out in the end. Unfortunately, when Ishigami’s methods are finally revealed, the answers aren’t entirely satisfying. But if you appreciate more thoughtful, deliberate mysteries, you’ll enjoy the slow suspense of this Japanese crime thriller.

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