Translated from the Japanese by Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander
Abacus, 2012 (2005)
When Detective Kusanagi of the Tokyo Police tries to piece together the events of that day, he finds himself confronted by the most puzzling, mysterious circumstances he has ever investigated. Nothing quite makes sense, and it will take a genius to understand the genius behind this particular crime...
The Devotion of Suspect X is a crime novel with a bit of a difference, in that the reader isn't simply on the side of the criminal or the police, but somewhere in between, balancing their knowledge of both sides of the story. There are plenty of puzzles here, which is where 'Detective Galileo' comes into it. A friend of Detective Kusanagi, Galileo is in fact a genius physicist who has a knack for unravelling puzzles and looking at things from unexpected angles. His input proves to be invaluable to this case.
It's a difficult book to write about without giving things away or ruining the experience, but I would recommend it, particularly if you enjoy twisty crime thrillers. I found that I read it really fast, because I was desperate to get more pieces of the puzzle and see how it all turned out! The prose seemed a little bit stilted, or dry, at times - not a major problem, and I suspect the outcome of it being a translation. It didn't affect my enjoyment of the book too much, but occasionally it felt a little bit unnatural.
I enjoyed the Tokyo setting - as far as I'm aware, this is the first Japanese novel I have read, and it was nice to break out of the Europe/US mould for a change. I had to look a couple of things up, such as the 'hostessing', which I couldn't work out whether it was a euphemism for prostitution or not.
I wavered between 3 and 4 stars on Goodreads - the twist is satisfying, and it was a good, fast-paced thriller, but I thought the characters were a little bit flat at times (and the best character, 'Galileo', wasn't used as much as I would have liked), and the prose wasn't particularly sparkling. I'd be interested to read the next Detective Galileo book, which has also been translated into English, to see whether the character is more of a central feature further down the line.
Overall rating: 6.5/10
Book source: Borrowed from the library.
This book counts towards my 2013 Translation Challenge.