I have now for a few months been a fan of Keigo Higashino. The Devotion of Suspect by Keigo Higashino is my 4th book by the author. Luckily for me, it so happened that I picked this up after his other lesser books because for me, this one is a masterpiece and probably nothing can surpass it. Unless, of course, Mr. Higashino comes out with another masterpiece such as this. Or, someone keeps wiping off my memory of having read this book each time after I read it and I go back to the beginning and marveling each time while technically already having read the book.
Yasuko Hanaoka and her daughter Misato are trying to live a peaceful life. Now working in Benten-Tai, a lunch box restaurant, Yasuko only wants a bright future for herself and Misato. All seems well until the arrival of her ex-husband, Shinji Togashi. What does he want? Oh, just some money and some creating some troubles for the mother-daughter duo. What he doesn’t get is that they have had enough already and it is not good for him to bother them further. So, what happens? They kill him in a moment of rage and self-defense. Tetsuya Ishigami, a mathematical genius, and Hanaoka’s neighbor, knocks then, and despite their efforts to hide it, the Hanaokas are left at his mercy to dispose-off the dead body. Ishigami takes it onto himself to clear the mess and keeps the Hanaokas out of the way. Needless to say, the police find a dead body and start investigating which leads them to Yasuko. The leading detective for the case is Kusanagi, and along with his friend and genius physicist Manabu Yukawa, they start playing a game of chess with Ishigami and the Hanaokas. What follows is a series of thought-of moves that they find themselves against and a revelation that puts the intellect of a normal human to shame. Has the perfect murder been committed?
Picking up this book was never my first choice. Having watched the Bollywood movie Drishyam based on the book, I was doubtful if I’d enjoy it as much even after having read a few books by the author and had loved them. But, I took my chances and picked this one up, lockdown to be blamed, and devoured it like a ravenous animal who sees food after many days.
Higashino is a magician who knows his tricks well and yet there is a simple logic behind all the trickery which readers like me are never able to guess, even when they have watched a movie based on it. Although the movie was great in itself, it is nowhere close to this book. With this book, I bow down to him. A seemingly how-dunnit is easily blended into a what-dunnit and a why-dunnit. Having revealed the crime and the criminal a few chapters into the book, it was a matter of keeping the reader engaged until the climax. Just when you think you finally get it and start hurrying up to the end, the author blows away your thinking as lightly as cotton pollen and reveals the trick behind his trick. The translation is lucid and the story, superbly mind-blowing. I do believe that translation loses a lot of beauty, but one can only know so many languages! Based on the theme of a rock-solid alibi of the murderer, the story is like a game of chess between two world champions. While you root for one, you crave for the other to make an intelligent step. A brilliant game is more endearing than the result itself. I rooted for the culprit here and I know so many others would have done the same. Like Higashino’s other books, this one too has elements of local flavor. And like others, this too has its too perfect to be true elements. The almost immediate pinning down of the culprits by the police, the romance bordering on infatuation (though I understand it was a part of the play by the master), and the coincidence of two geniuses on the opposing ends, all too good to be true. But for the thought behind all this, for the trick that the author has up his sleeve and for leaving the reader awestruck, I will overlook whatever downside the book has. For me, this is and will remain one of the best murder mysteries I have read to date.1 like