Yes, this one is a murder story. The first forty-eight pages hold your hands and take you around this little town by the river Sumida. They build an image within you that you cannot forget and at the same time rapidly build the characters of Yasuko, her daughter Misato, the Math teacher Ishigami, and Togashi, the man who is murdered.
Yes, the pace never slackens and the reader simply jogs along with the writer through Benten Tei, up and down the Shin-Ohashi Bridge, crosses the Kiyosu Bridge, into the heart of the unexpressed, over the spikes of mathematical deductions, and straight into the lap of a novel that simply doesn’t stop!
The first forty-eight pages take you through a gamut of emotions that include the brave stances of a single mother, fears that the hunted often display, love that is discernible even in silence and downcast eyes, foxiness that makes a person insensitive, and then the deadly combination of frustration and anger that finally explodes and results into a murder and a dead body!
No complex theories. No unnecessary words. Even a seemingly commonplace conversation between Yasuko and Ishigami tells us that it isn’t a mere cockroach that has been killed… and yet the murdered person was regarded as no better than a roach!
Yasuko’s skin was on fire. She said the first thing that came to mind. ‘It was a bug. A cockroach.’
‘Yes. A cockroach on the wall, and I – my daughter and I were trying to get it. I’m afraid we made quite a ruckus…’
‘Did you kill it?’
Yasuko’s face hardened. ‘What?’
‘The cockroach. Did you kill it?’
‘Yes… yes, we did it,’ Yasuko said, bowing her head with each word. ‘Killed it good. Everything’s fine. Thanks.’
Soon we find ourselves in the company of Ishigami who has powers of deduction that one feels so happy to meet… even Yasuko Hanaoka immediately concluded that this fellow was ‘terribly levelheaded and smart’ because he had ‘accurately reconstructed such an elaborate scenario after only a glance through her front door’… read this first of Ishigami’s deductions in this thriller and you’ll agree:
‘When I knocked on your door a few minutes ago, I smelled cigarette smoke. Figuring you had a guest, I looked for shoes by the door, but I couldn’t see any. I glanced into the room, and noticed it looked like someone was under your kotatsu, and the cord was pulled. But if someone wanted to hide, they could’ve just gone into the back room. Which meant that the person under the kotatsu wasn’t hiding there, they had been hidden there. When I put that together with the thumping noises that I had heard, and the fact that your hair was unusually dishevelled, it wasn’t hard to imagine what had happened. Oh, and one more thing: there aren’t any cockroaches in this building. I’ve lived here several years now and never seen one.’
As I went from one page to another I realised that this is one book in my hands that is not just a thriller but more than that… and it isn’t surprising that more than 2 million copies have been sold so far.
You as a reader know that a murder has happened, you know who the murderer is, you also know what the reasons were that compelled a timid Yasuko and a fearful Misato to land with a dead body in their home… and yet you want to follow what Ishigami deduces, what the policemen like Kusanagi methodically conclude, and the way Yukawa, and equally gifted ex classmate of Ishgami, too uses thought. You, as a reader, love the experience of riding the thought waves that the novel generates and love the way everyone in the pages intently using them. No, this is surely not a dumb thriller where knives slash and gun-shots reverberate… it is thoughts that weave a magic of deception and intrigue that stays with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
There are no cars chasing black sedans, no footsteps rushing up the stairs to find an empty room, no police cordons everywhere… just intelligent summation pitted against more intelligent summation! As Ishigami says at a point… ‘you have two options: hide the fact that anything happened, or hide the fact you had anything to do with it.’ Could anyone else have been more precise about it?
You almost wish the novel hadn’t ended… not just because the thrill of deductions was fascinating but also because of the twist that you knew would be coming any moment. The twist that weaves in gentle love swishing in and out of the heavy shelling of mathematics and physics and a scientific temper! Love happens anywhere… and when it happens here you stop and sigh and shake your head with disbelief! Even love doesn’t make its entry without a lot of intriguing pages… and the most interesting thing is that everything happens on the pages and it is the reader who keeps concluding and defining.
Title of the novel: The devotion of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Publisher: Hachette India (www.hachetteindia.com)
15 May 2012