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by Keigo Higashino and Alexander O. Smith, read by David Pittu
Macmillan Audio, February 2011
Unabridged pages
ISBN: 1427211957

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Yasuko is a divorced Japanese woman working long hours in a bento box take-out to support her daughter, Misato. She believes she has found a modest new life, away from her former career as a nightclub hostess and her abusive ex-husband, Togashi. But her ex wants her back, or at least, he still wants her earnings. Yasuko has to strangle him to protect her daughter. Much to her surprise, her next-door neighbor, a high-school math teacher named Ishigami, comes to her rescue, complete with elaborate alibis and help moving the body. Ishigami is a shapeless nerd, who totally lacks personality. The beautiful Yasuko has never even noticed him, but now her life and that of Misato are tied up with his. There is more than one form of strangulation in this tale, and perhaps there is no such thing as free disposal of a dead body.

After Togashi's remains are discovered, Yasuko becomes the prime suspect of two dogged police detectives. One of them, Detective Kusanagi, uses a former classmate, Dr Yukawa, a physics professor, as his confidant and sounding board. Ironically, Yukawa was also Ishigami's undergraduate classmate and his only friend. So Yukawa too starts his own investigation, but his focus is on Ishigami after he surmises that his old classmate is in love with Yasuko.

The story starts out a bit languidly, but the plot turns into a suspenseful cat-and-mouse narrative, ending with a couple of stunning twists. It is well-worth sticking through Higashino's careful setting of his chess pieces on the board. This change of pace is reflected in the excellent narration by David Pittu, who seems to start out at much too slow a pace, in part reflecting Ishigami's emotionless demeanor. But Pittu picks up his pace and also makes clear to listeners how well he understands each character.

The plot is flawless, but many readers may have hoped to see a bit more of Japanese life. No one seems to venture much outside his or her workplace, except for a trip to a restaurant. It is also a bit baffling to non-Japanese readers as to why characters repeatedly answer every question detectives put to them, even after Kusanagi lies to and betrays witnesses. No one "lawyers up" in this one. And the detectives keep coming back, with apparently little else on their minds.

THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X is the first of Higashino's novels to be translated into English. It won Japan's Naoki Prize for Best Novel. Hopefully, we will be seeing more of his works translated into English.

Karla Jay is a legally blind audio book addict, who lives in New York City, where she is Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies at Pace University.

Reviewed by Karla Jay, February 2011

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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