Ayo Onatade is an avid reader of crime and mystery fiction. She has been writing reviews, interviews and articles on the subject for the last 12 years; with an eclectic taste from historical to hardboiled, short stories and noir films
The Devotion of Suspect X is a rather unusual crime thriller but one that has an intriguing plots. Ishigami is a lovelorn social inept maths genius that is in love with his neighbour Yasuko a single mother. His devotion to his neighbour, which forms part of the title of the book, is rather creepy and at times makes you shudder.
Yasuko a former hostess turned shop assistant and her young daughter are being harassed by her ex-husband a brutish lout of a man who threatens both mother and daughter with violence. His brutality gets out of hand and he is soon killed. I wouldn’t waste any time on him, as his death whilst integral to the story line it is in fact the repercussions that draw the reader into the story.
Ishigami is brilliant and obsessed with maths but his social skills are extremely lacking and this is why he is not able to hold down anything else but a rather menial job as a maths teacher. He does however work out what has happened between Yasuko and her ex-husband and decides to help them and this includes disposing of the body. He also attempts to use his logic to out wit not only the police but also the reader. What he does not count on is the interest of Yukawa a former classmate and friend who is now a crime-unravelling physicist. Soon there is a battle of wits taking place between the two of them as Yukawa strives to get to the truth of what exactly happened.
Meanwhile Yasuko has a new man in her life that is courting her. She met him in her previous job as a nightclub hostess and he offers her a new life if she should escape the murder charge. This does not bode well as it triggers a fit of jealousy in Ishigami and soon she begins to receive letters warning her to stay away from her new lover.
Originally published in Japanese in 2005 and made into a bock buster movie, The Devotion off Suspect X can be considered to be an obsessive love story as much as it is a thriller. There is a palpable sense of place and the Tokyo that we find ourselves immersed in is not the Tokyo of the well heeled but that of the unglamorous down-at-heel part of Tokyo where there are social problems, domestic violence and homelessness is common place and there is a distinct lack of money. The plot is taut and intriguing as is the mental tussle that takes place between Ishigami and Yukawa.
This is a classic mystery interspersed with clues, which should delight Agatha Christie readers. The prose however is sparse and is reminiscent of a noir P.I novel. The drama that takes place is as much as working out Ishigami’s true mental state as solving the mystery that is taking place. One should not be put off by the melodrama that is found in the novel or the solution, which in my opinion leaves a lot to be desired including a moral question. The Devotion of Suspect X is a fascinating read and makes me want to see the film.