What an absolutely boring ride!
I got attracted by the idea of a police investigation book set in Japan and the “Over 2 Million Sold!” sticker made me think that it couldn’t be that bad.
This is one of the worst buys I’ve made this year as the suspense was not in the who’d done it but in the cat-and-mouse game played between the accomplice and the police.
None of the characters were likable or by any means interesting.
Yasuko and her daughter are living a quiet life after she quit her job as a hostess at a night club and is now making lunch boxes for the working crowd. Her life becomes complicated again after her ex comes begging for money and her daughter hits him in the head in an attempt to fight him off. They both get together and strangle him with an electrical cord and just as they were about to go to the police (and have the book end early), the next door neighbour comes knocking and offering to help them dispose of the body.
He is a math teacher, a loner and a genius and with a crush on the beautiful single mother next door.
“It’s more difficult to create the problem than to solve it. All the person trying to solve the problem has to do is always respect the problem’s creator.”
Detective Kusanagi of the Tokyo PD is tasked to identifying the body of the naked person found at the side of the river and his investigation quickly points to Yasuko – the estranged wife who was the last to see the suspect alive.
Her alibi (and her daughter) is a bit flakey but stands prodding. They both were at the movie on the night of the murder (they have the ticket stubs) and then went to a karaoke bar where they were positively identified by the personnel.
With the help of a genius physics professor, the detective, smart man himself, finds that none of the leads he finds actually go anywhere.
Neither does the book.
After the first part is done, what follows is a boring set of scenes where the detective pays multiple visits to both Yasuko and her neighbour, the physics professor pays multiple visits to the neighbour and then to Yasuko and Yasuko gets a boyfriend who is not the neighbour.
It’s 300+ pages of the detective wondering how Yasuko had committed the murder and the neighbour talking about math problems and how he confuses his students with algebra problems disguised as geometry problems.
The three men are super smart and big brained yet none seem to get any clues done. The woman is depicted as quick to jump into a new romance and only good at receiving instructions with no will of her own.
I’ve read a few other Japanese novels including Out * Natsuo Kirino and Grotesque * Natsuo Kirino and they were absolute gems compared to this grovel.
What really annoyed me was that a simple coincidence “helped” the savants solve the murder. The physicist that the police rely on is actually a former classmate of the neighbour – and guess what – they used to be friends. So the guy is the only one in the world who is able to phantom how his brain works and unravel his plan.
There is one massive twist at the end but by the time it happened it didn’t even matter anymore. Time wasted.
SPOILER: The neighbour, in order to hide Yukawa’s murder, goes on and kills a homeless person, smashes their face in, cuts off their prints and leaves behind the ex-husband’s prints and clothes to ensure that the body is falsely identified as the actual victim.
He cuts the ex husband into small pieces in his bathroom and sinks the body parts in the river. His reasoning is that once they declare the ex dead, when the body parts will resurface, they can’t be linked to the dead ex-husband as he is already dead.
Yukawa confesses to the murder after her daughter tried to commit suicide at school. They all go to prison.
What they should have done, call the police straight away and claim accidental manslaughter and self-defence. They would have been out soon enough.
Or even better – a restraining order against the POS ex-husband.
Yogisha Ekkusu no kenshin (“The Devotion of Suspect X”) by Higashino Keigo, is the author’s most acclaimed work. The novel won numerous awards, including the 134th Naoki Prize (a highly regarded award in Japan, mostly given to authors of popular novels) and the 6th Honkaku Mystery Award (one of the most prestigious awards in the category of ‘puzzle’ mysteries).