Recently for book club, we read a book I described as 17th Century Bavarian Sherlock Holmes. Our most recent book-club endeavor, The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higoshino, was described by my friend Kara as 21st Century Japanese Sherlock Holmes. We're both wondering if maybe we should read the real Sherlock Holmes.
This is a first rate modern crime mystery that starts with a twist and ends with a bigger twist. The book starts in a way that seems fatally flawed. Why? Because the author describes the central murder in the storyline complete with all the details about who did it and who helped cover it up. Yasuko, a single mother desperate to get away from an abusive ex-husband, does the dirty deed. She's mercifully helped by her next door neighbor, a painfully shy math teacher who works to brilliantly cover up the crime. Knowing this part of the story means that we the reader have a whole lot more information than one gets in most mysteries.
And yet, somehow Higoshino takes the fact that his readers are in on the crime and plays that to his advantage, fooling us into making assumptions that may or may not be true. It also means that the antics of the official investigators take on a new level of amusement as we witness them make assumptions we know are off the mark.
Like most good crime mysteries, The Devotion of Suspect X reads fast with a brisk story and engaging characters. It also offers an ending that I didn't see coming but makes a whole lot of sense once it unfolds. Moments of the reveal are heavy-handed and the constant rehashing of crime scene details gets old. But if you're looking for a fun, easy read with an engaging dose of Japanese culture, this book is a great choice.