“His name was Ishigami. She had gone to his apartment the night she moved in to introduce herself. That’s when she’d learned he was a teacher. He was a heavyset man, with a big, round face that made his small eyes look thin as threads. His hair was thinning and cut short, making him look nearly fifty, though he might easily have been much younger. He wasn’t particularly fashion conscious, always wearing the same sort of clothes. This winter, when he came in to buy his lunch, he was wearing the same coat over a brown sweater. Still, he did do his laundry, as was evidenced by the occasional presence of a drying rack on the small balcony of his apartment. He was single and, Yasuko guessed, not a divorce or widower. She thought back, trying to remember something that might have clued her in to his interest, but came up with nothing. He was like the thin crack in her apartment wall. She knew it was there, but she had never paid it that much attention. It just wasn’t worth pay attention to.”
The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigho Highashino.
Yasuko’s new life revolved around her job at the shop selling boxed lunches and being there for her daughter, Misato. She finally left the nightclub where she worked but most importantly she is free from her ex-husband, until one day he decides to look for her again. Togashi is back to make life miserable for Yasuko, exhorting money from her and intimidating her but Yasuko realizes in an instant that there is only one way to be free from Togashi forever.
After a struggle in Yasuko’s apartment, Togashi is dead and Yasuko and Misato have to plan a way out but what they never counted on was their neighbor, Ishigami, showing up to help. The quiet man who has barely spoken to them all of a sudden takes the lead and tells them what to do. If they follow his instructions they can escape punishment. Yasuko doesn’t question Ishigami much, perhaps she’s shocked and most of all she wants to protect Misato, so she follows Ishigami’s carefully detailed plans.
Meanwhile, the investigators seem to zero in on Yasuko but they can’t crack her story or get anywhere with Misato either. It looks like they are telling the truth, but one of the investigators has a deep friendship with a physics instructor who so happened to know Ishigami in his youth. Through Dr. Yukawa perhaps the investigators can learn more about Ishigami and what happened on that fateful day.
Intense and tightly-plotted, this is one of those books that left me totally surprised at the end. It’s what a great mystery/thriller should do and this one did it so well. This book isn’t so much about characters, in fact, Yasuko seems quite ordinary but it’s about what drives people to their actions. What has all of a sudden turned a quiet and almost forgettable man to be a force to be reckoned with?
There were a few things that did make me wonder if they could have worked so well, for example Misato, a teen, was able to get through a police interrogation by herself and did it quite well. I would have also liked more interaction from her as she seemed to be very much in the periphery but these are really just nitpicks. This book had me totally entranced from the beginning until the last page. From the book jacket it seems that Keigho Higashino has several novels and I can only hope that more will be translated in English. I highly recommend this one and no doubt it’ll probably even appear on my end of year favorites list.
Source: Library copy