A terrific battle of wits between two great brains, ending with a lovely trick denouement. This book sold 2,000,000 copies in Japan and catapulted its author to stardom. I can see why.
The blurb on the back of the book talks about its ‘evocative Tokyo setting’, but actually the book’s delight has very little to do with where it’s set. Give or take the occasional reference to items of food or furniture you wouldn’t expect to find in Bolton, the book could be set more or less anywhere. The storytelling style is simple. The characters neatly, swiftly drawn.
But the book is a stunner all the same. I won’t give away much of the plot, but suffice to say that the story involves a battle of wits between two huge intellects. The obvious crimey comparison is with Holmes and Moriaty (‘the Napoleon of crime’), except that both the intellects involved are basically good guys … though not necessarily completely good. One of the two is a genius mathematician. The other is a genius physicist. Both use scientific or mathematical metaphors to advance their theories or pose problems.
All that is deliciously done. The actual crime investigation winds round and round, not tense exactly, but gradually homing in. A book like that needs a hell of a kick at the end of justify its pace – and the novel delivers beautifully. It’s provides a wonderful trick ending in the tradition of Agatha Christie, the sort of thing you instantly want to explain to someone but know you’re not allowed to.
The book is also a bit different in that it has a kind of love at its heart, rather than anything sadistic. I think The Devotion of Suspect X is a cracking title and one that conveys that this book is basically tender rather than hard.
This book won’t please fans of dark crime or people who want their crime novels to thrill from the outset. There’s basically no gore here, no big forensic work, no tough-talking detectives, no serial killers with macabre sexual rituals. But we don’t always want that, do we? We like books with brains, ones that tease us and trick us. This is book does that in spades. I hope it sells big over here too.