Staying Home Binge Reading

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and I’m glad to do my social duty to stay home and binge read.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been reading mysteries from various countries. From the UK, Julian Symons’s The Colour of Murder, Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs, and Alex Michaelides’s The Silent Patient, to the US, John Grisham’s Camino Island, and my first Mary Higgins Clark All by Myself, Alone, which reads like an American version of Death on the Nile. And now getting through Patricia Highsmith’s Edith’s Diary, which is a sort of psycho-mystery.

But thanks to Japanese Literature Challenge 13 over at Bellezza’s, I’m introduced to Japanese mysteries. I started with Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s (芥川 龍之介) classic short stories “Rashomon” and “In A Grove”, posted here. After that, I’ve been intrigued by the novels written by the prolific Keigo Higashino (東野圭吾). Beginning with Malice, I’ve since binge read five of his mysteries.

There are ten books in the Detective Kaga series but only two have been translated into English: Malice and Newcomer, which I’ve reviewed in a previous post.

From the Detective Galileo series, there are 8 books from which three have been translated, The Devotion of Suspect X, Salvation of a Saint, and A Midsummer’s Equation. I devoured these in the past few weeks. Not everyone of them is a 4-Ripple rating, but this one definitely deserves it.

The Devotion of Suspect X

 

The Devotion of Suspect X book cover


(Winner of the 2005 Naoki Prize for Best Novel in Japan, and also winner of both the Edogawa Rampo Prize and the Mystery Writers of Japan Prize for Best Mystery. The English translation was nominated for an Edgar Award in 2012.)

From the start, the reader is eyewitness to a murder. We know who committed the crime, the murder weapon, the motive, and the actual scene. It happens in the home of single mother Yasuko and daughter Misato. The victim is Yasuko’s ex-husband, a menace in her life. A neighbour, Ishigami, is in his adjacent apartment unit at the time. What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase––in Higashino’s leisurely pace––of the police and the suspect and possible accomplice.

Detective Galileo is the nickname the Tokyo Police Department had given Manabu Yukawa, Assistant Professor of Physics at Imperial University. Yukawa is a college friend of Detective Kusanagi and someone whom Kusanagi seeks when he needs to bounce off ideas or just shoot the breeze, an actual phrase from the English translation, curious to know the original Japanese idiom.

Higashino’s novels are like bookish tourism. His story, characters and settings make movie images in my mind of what everyday Japanese life is like. Here in this case, the murder weapon is the electrical cord from a kotatsu. What’s a kotatsu? I wondered, so was happy to divert to some Googling on that. Do go and find out if you’re interested. Lively pictures I did find and a new discovery of a common item in a Japanese home.

Back to the book. The physics professor Yukawa is logical. He analyses and deducts with a clear mind. Funny that the real detective, his friend Kusanagi is often driven by presumptions and impulses. The two make an odd couple in this series. However, it’s in the suspect Ishigami, a high school math teacher, that Yukawa finds his match. From the case, Yukawa reunites with his university classmate Ishigami whom he has not seen since graduation. Yukawa remembers him as a rare genius, someone whom he respects with heartfelt affinity.

When an amateur attempts to conceal something, the more complex he makes his camouflage, the deeper the grave he digs for himself.  But not so a genius.  The genius does something far simpler, yet something no normal person would even dream of, the last thing a normal person would think of doing.  And from this simplicity, immense complexity is created.

It’s Yukawa, the physics professor who finally figures out the mind of the genius, a conjecture he’d wish wasn’t true, for pathos can overwhelm a rational mind. And that’s a parallel to depict Ishigami. For him, something rare had sprouted within: when love and devotion are factored into an equation, it could lead to the most extraordinary scenario.

With an intriguing plot and unexpected development in the final revealing, Higashino captures the emotions and humanity of his characters in a way that’s nothing short of profound. The story idea Higashino has created here is most unique and original, just reflects the ingenuity of the mind of the writer.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ Ripples

 

JLC13

 

The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino, Translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander. Minotaur Books, New York, 2011. 298 pages

 

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Published by

Arti

If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

28 thoughts on “Staying Home Binge Reading”

  1. Arti, Thanks for sharing. I’m very eager to get this book now! “The Devotion of Suspect X”
    During this period of isolation, I’m outside working in the garden and walking a lot!
    Also, I’m reading “Educated” by Tara Westover —NY Times best seller. I think you would find it fascinating!

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  2. This sounds like it needs a place on my TBR list! I love mysteries, and I’ve enjoyed the different “flavor” of the little Japanese storytelling I’ve tried. Thank you for this review, Arti.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anne,

      ‘Flavor’ is the right word. Higashino loves to note what the characters eat, and that prompts me to want to go out for Japanese food. His A Midsummer’s Equation has lots of food descriptions. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. David,

      Thanks for stopping by the Pond and sharing your reading list! I’ll definitely check it out. Also, my previous posts are lists of films by women directors. One contains my own faves. Check them out. Would love to have your opinion on those. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the enthusiasm you exude for this book; I caught it even over here in Illinois!😉 The Japanese are such fine writers, and I adore their ability to write a good mystery, too. As you know, Keigo Higashino is one of my favorites, and yet I have not read Devotion of Suspect X which sits on my shelf! As you say, we are at home binge reading now, and I think I will lay down my Booker International Prize long list for the moment, for Devotion. So glad you participated in the JLC13, and so glad the titles worked for you. 🇯🇵❤

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    1. Bellezza,

      I’ve read from one of your posts that your fave is Naoko. I want to read that but can’t find it. No matter, Devotion is my fave right now although I like Newcomer too. However, I just finished The Miracles of the Namiya General Store and found it didn’t quite work, not for me anyway. I still remain a critical reader. 🙂

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  4. Lovely review! Yes Kiego Higashio uses the outdoors very well and brings out the nature and tradition wonderfully, you can actually soak in the beauty of the world he creates. I intend to read all his work soon, and even watch. I loved his malice as well. If you like you can start watching Galileo series too. I recently saw Midsummer’s Equation, and found it very interesting, the movie was well made – https://wp.me/p6NIMh-mn

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment. I’m curious to know where I can watch this movie? Streaming online, with English subtitles?

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    1. WG, I wrote this post two weeks ago. And within these two weeks everything had changed. I haven’t been able to read much or even watched one single film. The mood doesn’t allow it. My current post (TBR list) is a hopeful attempt at pushing myself back to some kind of normalcy. Hang in there, my friend!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh have you ever read any classic Seioshi Yokomizo? It’s a pastiche of Agatha Christie stuff (he was a contemporary and fan) but with a bloodthirsty Japanese twist. Good fun.
    I do remember reading this book a while ago too. Good characterisation and description of people’s everyday lives and interactions as well as being a good mystery.

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    1. No I haven’t. But will keep that in mind. And, are u aware there’s a new Perry Mason series, starring Matthew Rhys, the Wales actor? He’s Mr. Darcy in the adaptation of P. D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. LOL.

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        1. This is the trend for years now: many US movies and series have UK actors in main cast. Matthew Rhys is also in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood opposite Tom Hanks (Mr. Rogers). He also stars in all the 6 Seasons of The Americans as the main character Philip, opposite Keri Russell playing his wife. I highly recommend that series… about Russian spies living as Americans, raising an American family.
          And to something closer to what you’ve seen recently, Little Women. All three of the March sisters are played by Brits! 🙂

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