One of the most popular mystery authors in Japan, Higashino has written three novels featuring Dr. Manabu Yukawa, a physics genius at the University of Tokyo who occasionally helps out an old friend on the city police. Part police procedural and part reverse whodunit, with a large dose of creepy psychodrama thrown in, Suspect X is simply terrific. And that’s even before the utterly unguessable twist ending that has so divided North American reviewers, many of whom think the author hasn’t played fair with readers. Not so. When the kaleidoscope is shaken at the end, and the shards reassembled, the pathway to the answer is clear. Hint: when Yukawa repeatedly tells everyone—his students, the cops, suspects—that nothing is more misleading than the obvious, he really means it.
The surprise conclusion is all the more unexpected because there’s no mystery at all about the original crime. Yasuko Hanaoka is a single mother whose abusive ex-husband shows up one day to extort money by threatening Yasuko’s daughter from another marriage. The situation spins into violence and he ends up dead on Yasuko’s apartment floor. Overhearing the melee, her next-door neighbour, a math teacher named Tetsuya Ishigami—as brilliant as his old schoolmate Yukawa, and obsessed with the attractive Yasuko—arrives to offer his aid. And very effective help it is: body disposal, alibis and acceptable answers for accurately predicted police questions.
A clean escape seems imminent, until Yukawa appears on the scene, igniting a cat-and-mouse conversational game with Ishigami that drives the story to its conclusion. Suspect X is the newest entry in Higashino’s series, but the first to appear in English. That’s annoying for those wanting to know more about the quirky Yukawa, but it is understandable—it’s hard to imagine the physicist’s first two adventures could have been any better than this one.