Japan is a country with scarce natural resources. So they can hardly afford any waste. Their cuisine tries to find use for almost every part of the plant or animal that is being cooked. Toyota gave the world the lean principles whose main focus is elimination of waste. The book ‘The Devotion of Suspect X’ embodies this Japanese ethos. There is not a portion of the book that goes waste. Even seemingly insignificant portions contribute to the overall story. In the end I got a wow feeling how everything tied in so neatly.
Usually literature and science are considered two different worlds. This book kind of bridges the gap between the two. The two protagonists are men of science – one, Ishigami a mathematician and the other Yukawa a physicist. The story is a murder mystery skillfully woven around mathematical concepts. Somehow the entire story revolves in some way or the other around two problems of mathematical logic. Whether or not it is as easy to determine the accuracy of another person’s result as it is to solve the problem yourself? Which is harder: devising an unsolvable problem or solving that problem?
For those tired of stories set in US and Britain, a story set in Japan comes as a breath of fresh air. Sake, Sushi, bento boxes and karaoke build up the typical Japanese environment. The people, their emotions, their motive are all so typically Japanese. For those who are not much associated with Japanese culture, these things might appear strange. But they add an element of unpredictability to a story that makes it more interesting.
In most detective stories, we know what the problem is and the mystery is typically around the solution. And usually the options are clear. But it becomes more interesting when you don’t know what the problem is. That is the strongest element of the story. All along the book, it looks like an open and shut case that is going to be resolved in the next few pages and you wonder what is going to happen in the rest of the book. But it is like an optical illusion. Every time you seem to have come near it, you find it is still a little way ahead. And then a totally unexpected end comes right out of the blue.
Compared to traditional novels, one may not be able to relate so closely with the characters in this story. The characters remain closed and distant. Also the final fate of the characters might not be satisfying to all readers. But somebody well acquainted with Japanese culture can kind of relate.
In the final analysis, I totally love this book. But it is a book that appeals more to the head than the heart. And you need some love for theoretical mathematics or logic to be able to fully enjoy this book. However what will appeal to every reader is the quick pace and the easy flow which makes it an effortless read. Touchy feely folks who are sure they hate logic and mathematics can definitely give this book a miss. I would recommend all others to definitely give this book a try.
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