Monday, August 15, 2011

「ラブは0・・・いくら積み重ねても惨めに負けるだけ・・・」

なるべく傷つけぬよう傷つかぬように
切なさもほらね押し殺せる
愛だと名付ければそれが愛だといえる
『忘れ咲き』 (Garnet Crow)

Look! So I won't hurt you or myself,
 I can even supress my own sadness!
If I would call this love, I could say that this is love
"Wasurezaki" (Garnet Crow)

Re-reading Conan for the big series overview was fun, but it also took quite some time, that could have been spend on other material. And there is enough material I still want to read/watch/listen. So I won't make a habit of re-reading / reviewing material I read in the past. It would just take too long, even if it would be fun to discuss classics like The Greek Coffin Mystery, the Father Brown stories or 813 (I have a loophole for 813 though!).

But for some reason or another, I suddenly developed the urge to write about Higashino Keigo's Yougisha X no Kenshin ("The Devotion of Suspect X"). So I did. Yougisha X no Kenshin is the third entry and the first full-length novel in the Galileo series. For me, it's a book of memories. It was the very first book I read in Japanese. Armed with a dictionary, I spent an obscene amount of time deciphering the novel. For a first-year student who had just finished the elementary level lesson material, reading a complete novel in Japanese was perhaps a bit ambitious. Every three words, I had to open my dictionary to look up some word or expression. It took me months to get to the final page of the book. But it was worth it. Yougisha X no Kenshin was a great story that really impressed me. Earlier this year, an English translation was released and going through the book again, my opinion on the novel didn't change: Yougisha X no Kenshin is a great story.

The previous Galileo stories were about crimes that were connected one way or another to the exact sciences. Sometimes it was about a murderer who used some high-tech machinery to kill his victim, sometimes it was about some ghostly apparation that turned to be some natural phenomena. Science still plays a big role in Yougisha X no Kenshin, but no death-lasers to be found here. The story starts with a murder commited by single mother Yasuko and daughter Misato. The victim, Yasuko's ex-husband, was really asking for it, but still, murder is murder. Mother and daughter are still dazed, the stiff is still warm, when suddenly their neighbour, the maths teacher Ishigami knocks on their door. He knows what has happened and says he wants to help the two. Luckily for them, Ishigami is a real genius and he gets rid of the body and whips up a perfect alibi for the two in no time. The police on the other hand are having trouble finding the murderer (though they do suspect the mother/daughter duo) and detective Kusanagi decides to ask his old friend Yukawa, a physicist nicknamed Galileo, for help. And just to make things more dramatic, Yukawa and Ishigami are actually old friends too, each acknowledging the other as a true genius on their own respective fields (physics and mathematics).

I could write about the big Yougisha X no Kenshin controversy (with big players like Nikaidou Reito and Kasai Kiyoshi), which was about whether this novel is a true orthodox detective and whether the hints were fair enough (and thus whether it was fair that this novel won the Honkaku Mystery Grand Prize). But I won't. All I know is that I enjoyed this novel when I first read it in 2008 and again when I read the translation in this year. I don't think that any discussion on the book will change my opinion about it. It's a very engaging mystery novel that anyone can enjoy. Unless you're an old sour grumpy critic.

Higashino Keigo is always quite strong in characterization, as human relations are often the emphasis of his mystery novels. Actually, his novels often turn out to be some kind of orthodox mystery romance psychological thrillers. Which totally explains his popularity in Japan. But anyway, in Higashino novels, people usually commit murder out of love, to protect the ones they love or because their unrequited love turns into grudge (See for example Seijo no Kyuusai ("The Saint's Salvation") and Akai Yubi ("Red Fingers")). But even though this is a common theme in Higashino novels, the way these themes are used  in Yougisha X no Kenshin is exceptionally good. Inverted mysteries often need both a detective and a murderer you can root for. People can easily root for cops like Columbo or Furuhata Ninzaburou, so it might be a bit harder to create a symphathetic criminal. But it's almost insane how much the reader will root for Yasuko and Misato, how much the reader hopes that Ishigami succeeds in protecting his neighbours.

Note that the whole fact that I address a topic like characterization and human relations here is very strange. I mean, for someone who loves robot!Ellery Queen and the supershort Q.B.I. stories, you'd expect I don't pay much attention to those kinds of themes. Which is totally true. So the fact that I actually talk about them in a review, means that I was quite impressed.

This novel was also made into a movie in 2008 (the TV series based on the previous books was very popular). Actually, the reason I started with the book was because I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie. The movie itself is pretty good too: the TV series had some cheesy elements, but the production team luckily got rid of that to fit the story's more dramatic tone. Tsutsumi Shinichi is unfairly billed as a supporting role, as he really steals the show with a heartbreaking Ishigami (and I love the ending song, Saiai).

I doubt whether I'll ever be able to look at this novel without the Nostalgia glasses on, but I'd like to think that this is a great novel, even without those glasses. 

Original Japanese title(s): 東野圭吾 『容疑者Xの献身』

2 comments :

  1. This book continues to glower at me, while it tries to elbow its way to the top of my to-be-read pile, but I will make an effort to finally read it within the next four weeks.

    I'm curious to the true nature of the controversy regarding the books status as an orthodox detective novel, because it sounds like a formal, inverted detective story with one minor alteration: the battle-of-wits is between the sleuth and an accomplice after the facts. If that's the case, if definitely qualifies as a traditional mystery and I would be baffled at what all the fussing was about.

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  2. The discussion wasn't about the format, but mostly on how fair the book was (i.e. did the novel abide to the rules of an orthodox mystery), extending into a discussion on what an orthodox mystery in fact is.

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