Monday, June 25, 2012



Details of the Book

Title: The Devotion of Suspect X
Author: Keigo Higashino
Originally Published in Japanese as Yogisha X No Kenshin by Bingeishunju Ltd (2005)
English Editions: First published in the United States in 2011 by Minotaur Books and First published in Great Britain in 2011 by Little, Brown
Translated from Japanese by Alexander O Smith and Elye J Alexander
ISBN  978-1-4087-0325-0
Pages: 374
Price: Rs. 350
Genre: Fiction (Soft Boiled Detective Novel)

I feel that a good novel should have four attributes:


As EM Forster enunciates in his seminal work Aspects of a Novel (1927) a novel tells a story and the story must be built around suspense – the question of  “what happens next?”

By definition: A story is a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence. Thus, in a novel there must be a “clock” which moves the story forward in time, and, more importantly, there must be suspense (what happens next) which engages the reader and urges the reader to keep reading the book till the very end. Yes, a novel must have Page Turning Quality (PTQ) and it is the two factors, pace and suspense, which impart PTQ to a novel.

The Devotion of Suspect X is an exciting novel with a fast-moving story and terrific suspense that gives it great Page Turning Quality (PTQ). This novel is a compelling yet easy read and the moment you start reading, the story is instantly engaging and never lets your attention slack. This book is real page-turner and is so engrossing that once you start reading it is simply “unputdownable”. The Devotion of Suspect X is a fascinating book and the writing has a riveting quality that induces you to read the novel in one sitting.


It was Edgar Allan Poe who emphasised that every author must strive to achieve “unity of effect” while writing a work of fiction. By the word “effect” he meant “emotional response”. The author must decide what effect he wants to create in the reader’s emotional response and then he must employ his creative powers to achieve that particular effect.

While reading this book I recalled, in my mind’s eye, the inimitable short story Lamb to the Slaughter by Roald Dahl. Just like Roald Dahl does while narrating his story, Keigo Higashino, by his skilful craftsmanship, succeeds in creating the emotional effect of “suspense” in the mind of the reader. The author focuses on the main plot and keeps his attention on the core storyline. He ensures that the plot twists and turns and keeps you captivated till the very end. He adheres to the unity of effect principle and avoids meandering into subplots (a temptation many writers succumb to).

By realizing the “unity of effect” principle, Keigo Higashino succeeds in creating and maintaining suspense throughout the novel and it is this suspense that makes you read this book to the very end – yes, The Devotion of Suspect X is a superbly crafted suspense novel.


A strong ending leaves an “aftertaste” in the mind of the reader and this gives a novel an air of permanence and you remember the book for a long time. While PTQ will make you read the book and Unity of Effect will make you enjoy the book, it is the Ending that makes you remember the book – the first two attributes will make a book a “good” book but is the ending which will make it a “memorable” book – yes, it is the ending which distinguishes an ordinary book from a remarkable book.

The most impressive aspect of The Devotion of Suspect X is the brilliant “O. Henry Ending” which leaves you stunned and dumbfounded. The skilful way in which the author transforms the underlying suspense into unexpected out-of-the-blue surprise is indeed brilliant.


In his masterpiece Aspects of a Novel EM Forster defines a story as “a narrative of events arranged in their time sequence”. The basis of a novel is a story – the narration of events in the order they happened. But that alone is not enough – storytelling alone can never produce a great novel. Forster adds that a good novel must include a sense of value in the story.

In The Devotion of Suspect X , Keigo Higashino explores the famous mathematical conundrum, the P = NP Problem (also known as the P versus NP problem) which is generally considered unsolved till today. Simply stated, the P = NP Problem asks whether it is it easier to “solve” a problem than “verify” the correctness of someone else’s solution.

Which is easier: To “solve” a problem yourself or to “verify” the correctness of someone else’s solution to that problem.

Two of the principal protagonists, a mathematician and a physicist, have an intellectual duel and play a cat and mouse game, based on the P versus NP Problem, to find out whether it’s more difficult to think of the solution to a problem yourself or to ascertain if someone else’s answer to the same problem is correct

And as the mystery is unravelled the answer to the P = NP Problem becomes evident, at least from the author’s point of  view. The blurb says that the author is an Engineer and Keigo Higashino certainly demonstrates his analytical skills in plotting this crime thriller.

To sum up, The Devotion of Suspect X is a brilliant novel – it has terrific suspense which produces first-rate Page Turning Quality, unity of effect which engages the reader and makes it engrossing and unputdownable, a remarkable ending which stuns you and a meaty plot with analytical substance which imparts a sense of value.

This is not a hard boiled detective thriller nor is it a whodunit murder mystery. In fact, the author describes the murder in graphic detail right at the beginning of the novel and tells the reader why and how the crime is committed. As the story unfolds the “all-knowing” reader is given a grandstand view as he watches the riveting cloak and dagger action, observing the cat and mouse game as the detectives carry out their investigation and the protagonists try to outwit them. As red herrings emerge and the story livens up, the reader is kept in suspense till the very end wondering whether the detectives will be able to solve the case and catch the murderer or will the murderer be able outsmart the sleuths and escape scot-free. And suddenly, out-of-the-blue, you have a brilliant “O. Henry Ending” which imparts a fantastic sting in the tail. All these attributes makes this novel an extraordinary suspense thriller.

The Devotion of Suspect X is the best detective story I have read in recent times. I commend and recommend this book. You will enjoy reading this novel. Do get a copy of The Devotion of Suspect X. It is certainly worth having a copy of this book in your bookcase.

I thank the BlogAdda – Book Reviews by Bloggers Program for giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2012
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this book review.
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer. Educated at IIT Delhi, ITBHU Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories, creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional research papers in journals and edited in-house journals for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram Karve has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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1 comment:

Rahul SMS said...

This is one of the best mystery novels (to have come out of Japan) I had read this year. It knocked me out of my senses for its razor-sharp suspense in the story.

The uniqueness of the story is that you get to know who the murderer is right at the start of the novel, but the fact that the maths teacher, Ishigami (Suspect X) is so blind in his sympathetic devotion for the woman who murders that he is ready to go great lengths and do just about anything to save the woman he loves and her daughter from going to jail. The plot is ingeniously constructed and is perfect for a thrilling reading. The Devotion of Suspect X is a grand treat for mystery novels fans. If Hollywood plans for a movie based on this novel then why not? Let’s see a movie come out of it. I already have a name for the film version: “Suspect X".