Friday, May 31, 2013

How far can you go? The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

"The Japanese Stieg Larsson" reads the blurb on the cover. For me, that is hardly an incentive to pick up the book. In fact, it is actually a put-off, Larsson being one writer I have sworn off. But then the Indian newspapers are suddenly filled with praise for Keigo Higashino, and Ellie Warren @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm decides to celebrate a Japanese Literature month, and so I give in and pick up Higashino's first book: The Devotion of Suspect X. And am I glad I did!


 


Yasuko Hanaoka is a single-mother working in a small restaurant that provides boxed lunches. One of her regular customers happens to be her neighbour, Tetsuya Ishigami,  who teaches maths at a school nearby. The owners of the restaurant joke that he only comes to see Yasuko. But Yasako feels no interest in the man as after having two failed marriages, she simply wants to bring up her daughter, Misato.

One day, however, her second husband, Shunji Togashi turns up on her door step. An abusive man, with a history of violence, Togashi, alternatingly  threatening and cajoling, is able to extract money from Yasuko. Even as he is leaving, he gets into an altercation with Misato and starts beating the young girl. In desperation, Yasuko hits Togashi on his head. Before quite realising it, mother and daughter have given way to their pent-up frustration and killed the man... and now they have his corpse on their hand. Even before they can get hold of their bearings, there is a knock on the door. It is Ishigami who has come to inquire about the commotion. Yasuko tells him that they were frightened by cockroaches (??? Don't they have rats in Japan? I mean cockroaches!!!) and he pushes off. Before mother and daughter can sigh in relief however, the phone rings. It is Ishigami again who tells Yasuko that he knows what exactly has happened and volunteers to help. Then he steps in, talks of disposing the body, and offers advice as to what to do next.

Police investigation begins with the entry of  police-detectives Kusangi and Kishitani. They interrogate Yasuko and Misato and though he has nothing to go on, Kusangi is convinced that they are hiding something.   He asks his friend Dr. Manabu Yukawa ( Higashino's recurring character referred to as Detective Galileo) for help. Yukawa, a physicist and a university friend of Kusangi, gets interested in the case as he knew Ishigami in the university and knows that his is a very brilliant mind. Yukawa also becomes convinced that Ishigami is somehow involved with the murder. From then on, these two brilliant minds are locked in a battle of wits.

Things get further complicated when Yasuko meets an old acquaintance, Kudo, and finds herself falling in love with him. However, she worries about Ishigami's reaction and fears that he'd withdraw his protection if she does not reciprocate his feelings. At the same time, she wonders whether her entire life would be spent in-debted to Ishigami. Meanwhile, the cat-and-mouse game continues between Yukawa and Ishigami... but unlike a mathematical equation, life usually throws a spanner in the most perfect plots.


I enjoyed this book thoroughly. The characters, the setting, the plot, everything was top-notch. And the twist in the end (which I did not see coming) was the cherry on the top. Now I am eager to read the next book in the series.



BTW, the only comparison with Larsson seems to be in terms of sale. Like Larsson's books, this thriller too is a phenomenal best-seller, having sold 2 Million copies.

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First Line: At 7: 35 A.M, Ishigami left his apartment as he did every weekday morning.

Title: The Devotion of Suspect X

Original Title: Yōgisha Ekkusu no Kenshin?

Original Language: Japanese

Author: Keigo Higashino

Translator: Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander

Publication Details: London: Little, Brown, 2011

First Published: 2005

Pages: 374

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The book is available easily in book shops on the net. I borrowed it from the college library.

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Submitted for the 2013 Translation Challenge



Also submitted for the following challenges: 52 Books in 52 Weeks, 2013 Genre Variety, 2013 Mystery/Crime, Criminal plots III, Let Me Count the Ways, New Authors, What Countries Have I Visited?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tozai Mystery Best 100: So how many have you read?



I love going through lists, especially of books and movies. To tick-off a book read or a movie seen gives me great pleasure. Recently I came across this list of top 100 mystery novels, published by Japanese magazine Shūkan Bunshun (The Weekly Bunshun) in 1985. A revised edition, of 50 books, was published in 2012.

Here are the lists for your perusal and pleasure:

1985 LIST

Rank Author Title Year
1 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of Y 1932
2 William Irish Phantom Lady 1942


3 Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye 1953




4 Agatha Christie And Then There Were None 1939
5 Jack Higgins The Eagle Has Landed 1975
6 Gavin Lyall Midnight Plus One 1965
7 Freeman Wills Crofts The Cask 1920
8 Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 1926
9 S. S. Van Dine The Bishop Murder Case 1929


10 Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short stories) 1892
11 Alistair MacLean HMS Ulysses 1955
12 Frederick Forsyth The Day of the Jackal 1971



13 Raymond Chandler Farewell, My Lovely 1940
14 John Dickson Carr The Burning Court 1937
15 Lucien Nahum Shadow 81 1975


16 Gaston Leroux The Mystery of the Yellow Room 1907
17 Ira Levin A Kiss Before Dying 1953

18 Eden Phillpotts The Red Redmaynes 1922
19 Dick Francis For Kicks 1965
Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon 1930


21 Desmond Bagley High Citadel 1965
22 S. S. Van Dine The Greene Murder Case 1928
23 Catherine Arley Woman of Straw 1956


24 Ross Macdonald The Chill 1964
G. K. Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown (short stories) 1911
26 John Dickson Carr The Hollow Man aka The Three Coffins 1935
27 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of X 1932
28 Robert B. Parker Early Autumn 1981
29 Dashiell Hammett Red Harvest 1929
30 Sjöwall & Wahlöö The Laughing Policeman 1968
31 Ellery Queen The Egyptian Cross Mystery 1932
32 Robert Ludlum The Bourne Identity 1980
33 John le Carré The Spy Who Came in from the Cold 1963
34 Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express 1934
35 Carter Dickson The Judas Window 1938
36 Edgar Allan Poe The Murders in the Rue Morgue (short story) 1841


37 Roald Dahl Someone Like You (short stories) 1953


38 Christianna Brand Tour de Force 1955
39 Colin Dexter Last Seen Wearing 1976


40 Edgar Allan Poe The Gold-Bug (short story) 1843
41 Maurice Leblanc 813 1910
Brian Freemantle Charlie Muffin aka Charlie M 1977
43 Raymond Chandler The Big Sleep 1939

44 Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time 1951
45 Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles 1902


46 Anthony Berkeley Cox The Poisoned Chocolates Case 1929


Cornell Woolrich Rendezvous in Black 1948
48 Dick Francis Whip Hand 1979


49 Craig Rice Home Sweet Homicide 1944


Joyce Porter Dover and the Unkindest Cut of All 1967


51 Wilkie Collins The Moonstone 1868
52 Jeffrey Archer Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less 1976
53 Ellery Queen Calamity Town 1942

54 Ross Macdonald The Wycherly Woman 1961
Ellery Queen The Greek Coffin Mystery 1932
56 James M. Cain The Postman Always Rings Twice 1934
Jack Higgins Storm Warning 1976
58 Nicholas Blake The Beast Must Die 1938
59 Gavin Lyall The Most Dangerous Game 1964
60 Jack Higgins A Prayer for the Dying 1973


61 Isaac Asimov Black Widowers (short stories) 1980
Anthony Berkeley Cox Trial and Error 1937


63 Graham Greene The Human Factor 1978
64 William L. DeAndrea The HOG Murders 1979
Ed McBain Cop Hater 1956
Edgar Allan Poe The Purloined Letter (short story) 1845
67 Sébastien Japrisot Trap for Cinderella 1962


68 Daphne du Maurier Rebecca 1932
69 John Dickson Carr The Emperor's Snuff-Box 1942
70 Frederick Forsyth The Devil's Alternative 1979
71 Clive Cussler Raise the Titanic! 1976

Eric Ambler The Mask of Dimitrios aka A Coffin for Dimitrios 1939
73 Dick Francis Odds Against 1965
74 Richard Jessup Threat 1981
Edmund Clerihew Bentley Trent's Last Case 1913










Eden Phillpotts A Voice from the Dark 1925


77 Henry Denker Outrage 1982
78 Brian Freemantle Goodbye to an Old friend 1973


79 John Thomas Sladek Invisible Green 1977


80 Alistair MacLean The Guns of Navarone 1957
81 Steven L. Thompson Recovery 1980
82 Curt Cannon I Like 'em Tough (short stories) 1958
83 Georges Simenon A Man's Head 1931


84 W. Somerset Maugham Ashenden: Or the British Agent 1928
85 Ken Follett Eye of the Needle 1978
86 Harry Kemelman The Nine Mile Walk (short stories) 1947
A. A. Milne The Red House Mystery 1922
88 Dashiell Hammett The Glass Key 1931








89 Tony Kenrick Stealing Lillian 1975


90 Ellery Queen The Dutch Shoe Mystery 1931

Christianna Brand Death of Jezebel 1948
92 Bill S. Ballinger The Tooth and the Nail 1955
93 A. J. Quinnell Man on Fire 1980
94 A. J. Quinnell Blood Ties 1984
Ellery Queen Halfway House 1936
Edmund Crispin Buried for Pleasure 1948


97 Freeman Wills Crofts The 12.30 from Croydon aka Wilful and Premeditated 1934
Frederick Forsyth The Odessa File 1972
99 Lawrence Sanders The First Deadly Sin 1973
James Crumley The Wrong Case 1975


 THE REVISED LIST: 2012
Rank Author Title Year
1 Agatha Christie And Then There Were None 1939


2 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of Y 1932
3 Arthur Conan Doyle The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (short stories) 1892
4 William Irish Phantom Lady 1942
5 Agatha Christie The Murder of Roger Ackroyd 1926
6 Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye 1953
7 Umberto Eco The Name of the Rose 1980
8 G. K. Chesterton The Innocence of Father Brown (short stories) 1911
9 Thomas Harris The Silence of the Lambs 1988

10 John Dickson Carr The Burning Court 1937
11 Agatha Christie Murder on the Orient Express 1934
12 Stieg Larsson Millennium series 2005-2007
13 Ira Levin A Kiss Before Dying 1953
14 Ellery Queen The Tragedy of X 1932
15 Ross Macdonald The Chill 1964
16 John Dickson Carr The Hollow Man aka The Three Coffins 1935
17 Frederick Forsyth The Day of the Jackal 1971
18 S. S. Van Dine The Bishop Murder Case 1929


19 Jack Higgins The Eagle Has Landed 1975
20 Anthony Berkeley Cox The Poisoned Chocolates Case 1929

21 Lawrence Block Eight Million Ways to Die 1982



22 Jeffery Deaver The Bone Collector 1997
23 Ellery Queen The Greek Coffin Mystery 1932
24 Christianna Brand Death of Jezebel 1948
25 Gavin Lyall Midnight Plus One 1965


26 James P. Hogan Inherit the Stars 1977
27 James Ellroy White Jazz 1992
28 Gaston Leroux The Mystery of the Yellow Room 1907
29 Scott Turow Presumed Innocent 1987


30 Sjöwall & Wahlöö The Laughing Policeman 1968
31 Anthony Berkeley Cox Trial and Error 1937
32 Lucien Nahum Shadow 81 1975
33 Freeman Wills Crofts The Cask 1920
34 Edgar Allan Poe The Murders in the Rue Morgue (short story) 1841
35 Dick Francis For Kicks 1965
36 Dashiell Hammett The Maltese Falcon 1930
37 John Dickson Carr The Emperor's Snuff-Box 1942
38 Dashiell Hammett Red Harvest 1929
39 Josephine Tey The Daughter of Time 1951


40 Stuart Woods Chiefs 1981
41 Sébastien Japrisot Trap for Cinderella 1962
42 Ellery Queen The Egyptian Cross Mystery 1932

43 R. D. Wingfield Frost at Christmas 1984
44 Carter Dickson The Judas Window 1938
45 Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors 1934

46 Dick Francis Whip Hand 1979


47 Arthur Conan Doyle The Hound of the Baskervilles 1902
48 Eden Phillpotts The Red Redmaynes 1922
49 Anthony Berkeley Cox Jumping Jenny aka Dead Mrs. Stratton 1933
50 John Thomas Sladek Invisible Green 1977


I had great fun going through the list and browsing the covers but to my horror I realised that I had read a measly 14 and a 1/2 books in all, four of which I have blogged about. [That half-book is Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that I simply could not read after a point]. Also, there are 25 odd authors or so whom I have never heard of. Though there are a few authors that I would have loved to see in this list: Anthony Gilbert, Ethel Lina White, Marie Belloc Lowndes, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Rex Stout. But then to each his own, I guess.

So how many of these have you read? Do you agree with this selection? Which are the books that you would have included?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Beginnings and Friday 56




Book Beginnings on Friday is a weekly meme sponsored by Rose City Reader in which one shares the opening of a book. Here's mine from a book recently read:

I was sitting outside the Commodore's mansion, waiting for my brother Charlie to come out with news of the job.




 The Friday 56 is a weekly meme sponsored by Freda's Voice in which one shares an extract from page 56 of any book. Here's mine:

She made no effort to camouflage her dislike of me and I thought it prudent to warn her, 'My brother is not as patient as I am, ma'am, and he is in poor spirits this morning. He asks for a scorching hot bath and he had better get one. He is not one you will wish to upset, and you can take my word for it.'

Wondering about the brothers? Well, they are killers on hire and you can read all about them in Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

FFB: Night Screams by Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg

I hadn't heard of Bill Pronzini till a few weeks back. But as he turned seventy, his birthday was celebrated in the blogosphere and a particular FFB featured a few of his books. [Very graciously, Pronzini  thanked everyone for the good-wishes]. As I read enthusiastic reviews of his work, I realised that here was one author I had to read. Unfortunately though the libraries I frequent don't seem to stock his books and the only one that I could lay my hands on was a book that he wrote jointly with Barry N. Malzberg: Night Screams.



The beginning was not promising. A young woman has visions about a murder being committed. This was too much like Dean Koontz' The Vision, a book that I suffered last year. My enthusiasm for the book got slightly punctured.

 Leslie Abbot is a painter who is also a clairvoyant and  has lately been having visions about people being murdered. She not only witnesses them being strangled but also feels their terror, and echoes of their screams reverberate in her mind. On top of it, she recognises the victims and feels that she knows their murderer too. A faceless figure whom she paints.

The murdered people are part of a group called PSYCHICs. (The Parapsychological Society: Yankees Clairavoyants in Humanistic Ideological Concord). The founding member of the group, Oscar Koskovich is a troubled man. He feels that two of the members: Tony Murray and Sandra Harris have died because of the fact that they were members of PSYCHICs and he feels guilty of having ever brought them together. He calls the remaining members of the group: Gloria Mason, Neal Iverson, Jo Turner, and Leslie Abbot for a meeting to discuss the situation. They check in at an inn in Whitehall where Leslie stays, much to her dismay as the people in that particular community do not like Psychics. She has already been receiving anonymous threatening calls. As they discuss the situation however, tensions amongst the group members - who have little in common - surface. Neal is of the opinion that somebody with a hatred of psychics is killing the members while Jo feels that somebody from their own group is behind the killings.

Meanwhile, the FBI enters in the form of two agents: Brad Saxon and Stan Walker. It seems that a bureaucratic agent by the name of Morris Evers has disappeared. Since Evers was the cousin of the murdered woman, Sandra, the FBI feels there is a connect between her murder and his disappearance. I reacted with dismay as Saxon made his way towards Whitehall - unconventionally handsome with a quiet determination not to mention a troubled past - it was predictable (yawn) that he would fall for our troubled heroine - attractive, sensible, vulnerable yet strong. More killings occur and though our hero pledges that he'd safe-guard the strong yet vulnerable Leslie, one does not have to be a psychic to know that at the last moment he'd be way-laid/ knocked-out and our vulnerable yet strong heroine will have to face the terror of the murdrer all alone.

Despite these cliches -I do not know whether these were cliches when the book was published (1979) - the book is an okay read with a balance between horror and humour. Neal with his psychic birds provides many  funny situations but there is also an understated humour as in this scene:

Colebrook came over beside him. "Mr. Walker ask you a question?"

"Go right ahead."


"How long you planning to stay on here?"


"That depends."


"On what?"


"On when we decide to leave."


Colebrook pursed his lips. "Haven't seen your partner around since breakfast," he said. "He out on FBI business or something?"


"Or something."


"Be back pretty soon, will he?"


"Soon enough. Anything more you'd like to know?"


"Seems a man ought to be told what's going on inside his own hotel," Colebrook said stiffly. "Particular when there's government agents and murder involved."


"What do you know about murder, Mr. Colebrook?"


A vague look of alarm came into the innkeeper's eyes. "I don't know nothing about it."


"Then why don't we keep it that way?" Walker said and went away from him and up to the second floor.


Or in other words DO NOT MESS with the FBI.




Over all, I wasn't too disappointed with the book but going by the reviews I don't think this is Pronzini's better ones either.

*


.At a point in the text, Abbot and Saxon listen to Louis Armstrong over dinner. Having only a vague idea of Armstrong and intrigued by a song called 'Muggles', I went over to You Tube and listened to it:






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First Line: In the darkness, using the beam of his flashlight to guide him, he moved at a measured pace through the marshland.

Title: Night Screams

Authors: Bill Pronzini and Barry N. Malzberg

Publication Details: NY: Playboy Paperbacks, 1981

First Published: 1979

Pages: 300

Other Books read of the same author: None

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Kindle edition of the book is being offered at Amazon. I borrowed mine from H.M. Library at Fountain. [F.P 89]



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Submitted for the following challenges: 52 Books in 52 Weeks, 2013 Genre Variety, 2013 Mystery/ Crime, Let Me Count the Ways, Library Books, New Authors, Reading Outside the Box.

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Entry for Friday's Forgotten Books, today at Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.