26 thoughts on “The Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino

  1. ONE

    “I think it’s a coincidence.”

    Story of sixty year old maths teacher Ishigami with grey pony tail, has sight of the Can Man in the shanty box community of homeless near the river, has a fancy for a woman Yasuko who works in a place selling boxed lunches, and she soon becomes a second story with a minor crack in her apartment wall and a young schoolgirl daughter Misato and an ex-husband Togashi who intermittently stalks her, an ex who has a ‘coffee cup’, at the café where they meet, a cup in front of him but perhaps significantly she chooses cocoa, and Togashi later uses a empty can from the rubbish to stub out a cigarette when making an unwelcome visit to her apartment, and when he goes to leave, money she gave him in his pocket and a flea in his ear, young Misato suddenly …
    Oops, well, no spoilers in this review, I hope!

  2. B6605478-B62E-42F4-ACDD-28D347945166

    Kotatsu

    TWO

    “Ishigami pointed to a corner of the room. An empty can lay there on its side.”

    Should I have already realised that the maths teacher actually lived next door to Yasuko and Misato? I am not sure I am such a Sherlock Holmes deducer as he now turns out to be; perhaps a grounding in maths is a good basis for deduction as for subtraction and multiplication. Anyway his powers of deduction seem to be good for uncovering motives as well as covering them up. As yours might be when trying to deduce what has so far happened in this utterly compelling book FROM WHAT I WRITE IN REAL-TIME about it. (So compelling and page-turning, I shall no doubt find it difficult to resist reading it more speedily!) Anyway, my clues for you today, as well as being the image and the quoted can above, are “a copper flower vase”, one of the characters standing like a statue, someone else’s “mental fog”, an invisible cockroach, “tatami mats”, and a vacuum.

    “— all he had to do was to shut out all information from the outside world, and the formulas would begin to take shape.”

  3. THREE

    “Kusanagi reached for his dark-stained mug. The instant coffee Yukawa had offered him when he arrived had gone completely cold.”

    …like this case of crime that these two detectives are trying to solve and to help you solve it, before the case goes completely cold, too? They happen also to discuss the pros and cons of the rules of chess versus shogi.
    Today’s clues from myself, though, are a bicycle with two flat tyres and this book’s genius loci of Edogawa. (Many years ago, I read stories by someone called Edogawa Rampo, a name that assonated, for me, with that of an American author of yore…!)

  4. FOUR

    Today’s clues: an old woman carrying a washbasin, and a room numbered 204, whence obvious deductions can be made even by naive detectives. More nebulous clues: a bowl of mandarin oranges on a kotatsu, a badminton racket leaning against the wall, a karaoke box, a pile of mathematics textbooks, enabling potential deductions by a cleverer detective, by-passing the intermittently recurrent omnisciences or points-of-view of various characters and their would-be alibis or loopholes in their story. Tantalising stuff for readers of this book as well as devoted readers of this review in a parallel or alternate real-time.

  5. FIVE

    “— the start of his usual instant coffee ritual.”

    Including “layers of grime on the cup’s rim”, “a long sip” of the coffee and later being made to “cough up a swig of coffee.” Other clues: cinema ticket stubs, that badminton racquet again, and the gradations of detectives or would-be detectives, now including a “Professor Galileo” who once coincidentally knew the maths teacher as a genius “Buddha” twenty years ago at University. This book has become, so far, my own addictive morning coffee ritual for the deductive brain….

  6. SIX

    “: are four colours sufficient to colour the contiguous countries on any map, such that no two adjacent countries are ever coloured the same?”

    A question that is a clue in itself. As the two old co-students, ageing Yukawa and Ishigami, have reunion in the latter’s apartment next door to that of Yasuko and Misato, and we gradually learn of the pair’s backstory, their intellectual differences and the generality that Maths questions themselves are less important than the ‘elegance’ of the answers to them. I felt an undercurrent of suspense, bearing in mind this chapter’s own contiguous backstory of mystery and murder, and I absorbed further clues, such as the names and theories of Paul Erdős and Bernhard Riemann, and the formula P = NP and, yes, that my own devoted wife of fifty plus years of marriage is a retired maths teacher!

    “I’m not sure I would understand even after a few cups of coffee, for that matter.”

  7. SEVEN

    Today’s clues: a couple of sweet bean cakes, a coffee shop, a folding (would-be aiaigasa?) umbrella owned by a man called Kudo from Yasuko’s night club backstory, and, in this biding-its-time chapter, we wonder how the unexpected arrival of Kudo into this story, by his own volition, will affect Ishigami’s attitude towards helping Yasuko.
    I said ‘we wonder’ above, but I wonder if that includes you.

  8. 7ADF8BB5-4AB1-42A2-99E5-A48CBB432976

    EIGHT

    “He was apparently very skilled, and he had deftly countered Yukawa’s usual devious attacks and answered his every move.”

    Tennis as a parallel with the earlier chess, and the murder mystery and mathematical problem solving or sifting, and the ongoing ironic “heavy lifting” of the Badminton racquet clue. Other emerging clues: watching a movie on a mobile, the intellectual enjoyment of “chipping away at ironclad alibis”, barking up a wrong tree, a heavy lifting hammer / delicate chopsticks / a soft stewed daikon radish, ‘motorbikes, Morioka’….
    Reminder to self: new evidence seems to evoke a memory in me that, at the beginning of this review, I may have mistakenly got the identity of the man with a grey ponytail wrong… hmmm.

    “Which is harder: devising an unsolvable problem, or solving that problem?”

  9. NINE

    “‘What did your daughter do for dinner tonight?’ Kudo asked, taking a sip of coffee.”

    Had she spent the time with her legs under the electric kotatsu? But which kotatsu, I no longer need to fathom, perhaps. Kudo sounds to me like a game of ludo, if not chess or shogi. The police close in on the stubs. But are they making the wrong ‘only connect’? Type of kotatsu flex or the audit trail of suspicions of who aided and abetted whom? Notwithstanding Ishigami’s own suspicions about Kudo… is this book a parallel or even triangulated simultaneous equation or more quadratic? I ask this of myself, perhaps gratuitously.

  10. TEN

    “The detective […] fished a few yen out of his wallet to cover the two coffees he’d bought. The second cup was still on the table, almost full.”

    Almost … eternally on the cusp of solving who was helping whom in the investigation and who was helping whom in the crime BEING investigated. An elegant formula (as its says somewhere here) with an unpredictable variant, which seems an interesting oblique parallel with my own today’s circumstances in real-time…
    Today’s clues, meantime — a plastic bottle of cold oolong tea, Shinozaki Station, and the Chinese characters used to write Kudo’s name….indeed there is kudos due to any devoted reader for optimally “poking about” in this seemingly brilliant book’s clues so far!

    “Only a handful of people really understood mathematics anyway.”

  11. ELEVEN

    “‘How about some coffee? All I can offer is what’s in those vending machines over there, but it’s bound to be better than the instant stuff back at the lab.’ Yukawa stood, tossing the rest of the ice cream cone into a nearby dustbin.
    With Kusanagi following he ambled over to the supermarket, where he bought two coffees out of one of the vending machines. He passed one to the detective, and, then, carelessly straddling a nearby parked bicycle, he began to sip his own drink.”

    Straddling, uncaring, a stranger’s bike feels like reading what I sense to be a crucial chapter. Do you remember me mentioning earlier above the name of an American author that resonated with that of Edogawa Rampo? Well, I real-time reviewed four of his famous detective stories (among some of his other more gothic stories) some time ago HERE. I can’t help feeling that their inter-reconnections and variant machinations are relevant to today’s machinations or discussions of bicycles and fingerprints, and shadowings by characters of each other, including the Physicist (Professor Galileo) and the Detective above, and Ishigami and Kudo and Yasuko as triangulated by envisaged motive, be it, for all of them, bluff or double-bluff, even mathematically-(in)determinate-bluff! Misato, notwithstanding, at the back of my mind. Note to self …. Mustn’t forget the Can Man, nor the owner of the lunch-box shop where Yasuko works.

    “Kusanagi remained standing. He looked around as he opened the top of his can. ‘You shouldn’t sit on other people’s bicycles like that. What if the owner comes back?’”

  12. TWELVE

    “Kudo leaned back on his sofa seat and spread his arms as if to demonstrate that he didn’t care who saw him. Then he took a long sip from his coffee cup.
    Yasuko reached for her own teacup.”

    …in which teacup was a specifically chosen milk tea. My diversionary tactics from any possible spoiling audit-trail of this real-time review. Yet, I must mention Ishigami’s confirmed lack of self esteem (thinks himself ugly and punching above his weight re Yasuko) and also his obsession with her by taking stalking photos… I am as ‘roundabout’ as Yasuko in my attempts at joined-up thinking but, even so, I did consider myself pretty good at Maths O Level all those years ago. The metaphorical milk tea or otherwise. “Even geniuses make mistakes” — it says somewhere in this chapter. My devotion to not spoiling this book, even inadvertently in a real time review. An aspiration towards the prized tantalising X factor of empirical literary critiques such as these, I hope.
    Is life never really ‘planned’, and are things always ‘spontaneous’, even or especially crimes and chosen crime scenes? Seeing the phrase ‘travel time’, by the way, in this chapter, made me think for the first time how that differs from ‘time travel’…

    “Yukawa placed two mugs on the tabletop. It would have been hard to say which mug was filthier.
    The physicist mixed some coffee,…”

  13. THIRTEEN

    “In the photograph, the mathematician’s eyes were fixed on some faraway point. It had been taken at an angle, and at a distance, so that Ishigami would not notice.”

    …fixed on some vanishing point? The Occam’s Razor of a problem’s shortest journey to the simplest answer? The detectives are more ‘roundabout’ in questioning the MAMA of the joint where Yasuko used to work in such a role. Then there is the Professor’s own ‘intimidating’ walk with her, while he is pushing along HER bike! The lining up along a route of inferred actions, motives, alibis, phone calls, timings, clues… my own clues today: a waiter in a black tuxedo … well, that is my only additional chance clue today picked out from a hat of words, and even that one is pretty obviously extraneous!

  14. FOURTEEN

    “— well, there was an objective, something to learn towards.”

    As with INTUITION versus TUNNEL VISION in maths or, perhaps even more significantly, in solid-state physics, as the Professor (Yukawa) finds much to scry in Ishigami’s work schedule for the week that included March 10th, a schedule obtained by the Police Detective (Kusanagi)…

    “He took a sip of coffee. ‘So he was home that night?’”

    …and that event is in more extraneous proximity to our being allowed to witness Ishigami’s re-make-up maths tests, in his own real-time today, for slower students, including that motorbike enthusiast student I mentioned earlier above, who now mimes an X above his head as if to predict the mark that would be given as a judgement upon his maths test answers!

  15. FIFTEEN

    “The clock showed the time at 7.30 a.m.”

    Another crucial chapter’s first sentence, and the time was thereabouts as I first read it about an hour ago, along with my time-regular but only caffeinated coffee of each day!
    Today’s clues:

    “It was the kind of insurmountable problem worthy of an entire life’s devotion.”

    Like with my gestalt real-time reviewing, if I “only could have been left alone to do” this as with Ishigami’s attitude regarding his maths research …E3F58659-8C36-44D8-9F69-3A0669B8B80B making algebra geometry, or vice versa? Blind spots optimised. Later that P=NP problem in the otherwise straight, untriangulated line of genius for genius sake between Yukawa and Ishigami….

    The man with long grey hair in a braid now instead of pony tail, and the Can Man who is a different homeless man from him. The homeless with their own COGitative routines…

    The Art of Camouflage or Subterfuge. The latter word SEEMS also to mean an underground fugue or flight?

    “They half-burned them,…”

    The triangulation of Yasuko, Misato and Kudo…

    I could hardly resist reading onward after finishing this chapter. But I always have to read this book religiously regularly along with the homeless and their routines…upon the invisible tides of time.

  16. SIXTEEN

    “Women are terrible at keeping secrets.”

    So, if that statement by a character in this chapter is correct, it is a good job I am a male reviewer! Ironic, they were drinking tea, not coffee, when it was said during a crucial interview with the police. You see, seriously, I see myself as this book’s reader-brainguard or spoiler-free ‘brainwright’, the protection officer for its secrets, and always have been. I have ever known more than I let on, of course. It has told me things preternaturally or instinctively or on the quiet through the walls of its pages and I have absorbed much that I aggregate and subtract, that I then carry round in my head much of each following day, obsessing upon what else it has in store, whether it will eventually fulfil me or betray me. Never to have looked ahead physically in its solid-state paper pages to see what the end of its fiction-mathematical problem is. Quadratic or reader-triangulated or whatever.
    The essence of a real-time review.
    And never to assess its gestalt until all assessment has ended on its final page.
    Just one side-issue clue in this chapter today, an “oil drum.”

  17. SEVENTEEN

    “Aren’t scientists supposed to shelve their doubts in the face of logical arguments? Wasn’t it you who told me that? I thought you were all about facts over feelings.”

    By such Mathematics or Philosophy, I wonder if I am this book’s “stalker”, after all, not that I’ve mentioned this worry of mine before. After all, it’s not the overt type of fiction book I would normally read. It sort of came at me fatefully after a few months of preparation by somehow managing to read a handful of other such books, false clues laid in an apparent audit trail before me. Hmmm… Whatever the case, ‘Professor’ Yukawa is now the one being stalked, if too obviously. And other detached clues: old newspapers in a library archive with different local areas to be considered viz. the Sumida River, two reflections in glass doors, and more COGitation.
    I feel a revelation impending. But is it safe with me, while real-time reviewing instead of what other reviewers normally do, wait till they finish the whole book’s gestalt, parts of which need to remain hidden from any new reader of it? A review or preview, or something quite different from either?

    “‘This is way better than the instant stuff…’ […] The paper cup was still half full.”

  18. EIGHTEEN & NINETEEN

    How easy it would be if everything went dark, and the world ended right here, right now. What a relief it would be.”

    A link with Death’s Dark Abyss, and indeed it feels cheating to read two chapters as one gulp of my morning infusion. Yet, this book has taught me not to be predictable — even while being mathematically logical — in my thought patterns towards the inevitable conclusion, however much I scream in pain when discovering my being a COG in its wheels, the variable X in a set of several equations, similar to the ‘simultaneous equations’ that I used to practise as an obsessive hobby, a devoted preoccupation that even my Maths teaching wife found strange in a husband who only took Maths up to O Level. Zero Level, so, yes, to take the last two chapters in tandem seems obliquely and ironically in tune with the plot’s bicycles, sitting astride one of them even if it does not belong to me, but knowing its bodily owner is unlikely to turn up any time soon, as well as 19 being a prime number…. Great mind-expanding fiction (couched disarmingly simply as wide print lines upon rough hear-through walls of paper), yes, so-called fiction like this one puts the reader inside each character, and even then you still fail fully to understand their motives as each constituent yet separate Proustian or guest self struggles to complete the circle of the whole self when seen in hindsight at the point of stepping into the aforementioned abyss. And then wondering why you hadn’t guessed the gestalt or guest self already all read! The “coordinates” (a word used in these final chapters) is thus finally triangulated into the matrix of life, aggregated into you the reader’s own personal life, subtracted from what one thought one already knew but didn’t know at all, then divided between each one of us reading it. Now we need to get together and multiply our real-time notes chapter by chapter. Did you guess ahead? I didn’t.
    No spoilers here.

    How short is a lifetime […] compared to the time it will take humankind to find all the rich veins of mathematical ore where they lie sleeping and tease them forth into the world.”

    85DF45FC-E6BE-4E54-9283-77516A960395

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