Higashino, Keigo. The Devotion of Suspect X.

NY: St. Martin, 2011.

A little research will tell you that Higashino is the most widely-read author in Japan, with more than three dozen bestsellers to his credit and nearly twenty films and TV series based on his work. He’s won bunches of awards and even the U.S. critics have been effusive in their praise. So why have fewer than half a dozen of his novels been translated into English? American publishers are usually more awake and aware than that.

This is the first in his “Detective Galileo” series, featuring homicide investigator Kusanagi and his old friend, Manabu Yukawa, professor of physics at Tokyo University. Kusanagi is a senior detective and a very good one, but sometimes a case turns peculiar and he will turn to Yukawa for sideways insights. The plot here concerns the murder — more of a killing in self-defense, really — of Shinji Togashi by Yosuko Hanaoka, the ex-wife he had been stalking and harassing. Instead of simply calling the cops, though, she accepts the assistance of her neighbor, high school math teacher Ishigami, who is carrying a torch for her and the intricate workings of whose mind quickly comes up with a detailed plan to lead the police investigation astray. As it happens, Ishigami and Yukawa were classmates (so was Kusanagi, but “only” in sociology), and Yukawa comes calling simply to renew their acquaintance. And one thing leads to another.

Even though we know whodunit from practically the first page, the question is, will the killer get away with it? Will Ishigami’s ingenious plan work? Will Kusanagi or Yukawa figure it all out first? The characters are very well drawn and the action is suspenseful, and the investigators turn to the principles of the scientific method as they struggle with the case. It’s a battle of wits in the most literal sense. This one deservedly won the Naoka Prize and I recommend it highly.

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