Nut Ink. Mini reviews of texts old and new. No fuss. No plot spoilers. No adverts. Occasional competency.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Devotion of Suspect X (2005)

Author: Keigo Higashino | Page Count: 298 Pages

Sometimes, all you had to do was exist in order to be someone's saviour.

I love the mystery genre in theory, but I'm frequently disappointed by mystery novels when I actually sit down to read them. So many books are all about the detective and don't bother doing much to create a compelling mystery. Others don't create a mystery that's solvable, and leave you frustrated when you see the solution you never could have come to on your own.

The Devotion of Suspect X frames its mystery in an unconventional way, and succeeds in every way most mysteries fail. You know who was murdered and how from the opening chapter, and you're left to figure out the cover-up with clues perfectly hidden out of site. The book is full of interesting characters, but the mystery itself is always the primary focus, and the ultimate solution is as satisfying as it is painful. I didn't manage to figure it out, but could instantly see how the answers had been hinted at throughout - exactly how a reader should feel when a mystery is solved.

There are two big flaws that keep me from giving this one a perfect score. The English translation is weak, so much so that I put this one down several times before I really got into it. The writing is so flat that if the plot doesn't capture you, you won't maintain interest. I don't think this is true of the original novel, which has won awards in its native Japan. My other issue is with the female characters - they're flat and underdeveloped, which isn't a big problem for the minor characters, but frustrating when it comes to the major ones. I never cared much about Yasuko or Misato, which is a shame. The book would have been much more intense if I had. But in spite of these flaws, this is an impressive book, and is a must-read for anyone who cares more for mysteries than detectives.

4 finger-printed bicycles out of 5

1 comment:

Dr Faustus said...

I've read books in translation from various languages. The Japanese ones have all been flat like that. I always wonder is it the nature of the language or the translation?

I'm sure there are exceptions but in my experience so far German to English seems to be the most successful in keeping the life in the words.