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Archive for the ‘Psychological Thriller’ Category

The Devotion of Suspect XThe Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book starts with a genius mathematician who is in love with his neighbour, a divorcee who lives with her daughter. He is unable to tell her about it. He visits her everyday on his way to the school where he teaches under the pretext of taking a lunch box from the food joint she works at. There conversation is limited to a Hello and a Goodbye. The proprietors of the good joint try to tell the lady that the mathematician is smitten with her, but she does not see it that way.
One day the divorcĂ©e’s ex comes home to demand money from her. She tries to send him off with some money asking him to stop coming back to her house. In the meantime the daughter comes and the man passes certain remarks irritating the girl. She is angered and in the melee that ensues the two end up killing him.
The mathematician hearing the scuffle comes and asks if he can help. The lady refuses his help and plans to call the police to handover herself. The daughter pleads with her mother and convinces her to take the help of the mathematician who offers to cover up the murder. Thus begins the game.
A body turns up near a river bank far away from the place where the lady and the mathematician live. The police begin their investigation. The detective happens to have studied at the same university as the mathematician and he realises this when he goes to the mathematician’s house and finds an envelope from the university. The detective has a friend, a physicist who had studied with him at the same university. The physicist had helped with the investigations in the past. So when the detective goes over to have a chat with the physicist and discuss the case, the physicist realizes that the mathematician was also their contemporary in the university. The mathematician’s nickname was Buddha. This was owing to the fact that he maintained a calm detached life devoted to mathematics.
The physicist connects with the mathematician who is thrilled to find somebody who thinks and is able speak his language. Soon they are locked in a game of wits against each other with all others being a bystander.
Read the book to enjoy this battle of wits between the two geniuses. The author is a genius to have come up with such a plot.

One also finds some wonderful statements along the way. Some that impressed me.
In one place the the detective pulls up his assistant for offering his suggestion and the assistant apologizes for it. The physicist remarks “Why apologize? You follow orders yet you have your own opinions – sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Proper, even. Without people to question the status quo, how can we ever hope to arrive at truly rational decisions.” Fantastic management principle which will work wonders for an organization if followed, but is hated and shunned by most managers.

In one place the detective goes to see the mathematician holding test for the students who have failed to clear their normal exams. He asks if the mathematician sets tough questions and the mathematician replies “I do not set tough questions, I just change the nature of the question. Rather than asking them the standard question from the textbook that they follow, I twist it so that a problem in geometry looks like a problem of algebra and most fail to see through this.”. The detective mentions this discussion to the physicist.

Possibly with the above statement in mind the physicist tells a research assistant on how people get clouded due to assumptions. “Just because the problem seems like one of solid-state physics at first does’t mean that you shouldn’t consider other theories. Tunnel vision is no way to make it as a researcher. Your assumptions are your worst enemies. Trust them too much, and you’ll fail to see what’s right under your nose.” An advice which is actually indirectly directed towards the detective in this context, but applies to all circumstance.

At one stage where the detective validates everything that is told to him and it holds good the physicist comments “All you’re doing is tracing the steps of his proof. What you should be doing is looking to see if there aren’t any other answers that might fit what you know about this case as well. Only if you can prove that there are no legitimate answers other than the one he’s offered can you say that his is the only solution to the problem.
Again a strategy adopted by many when they create the reports. Everything in the report maybe be validated against the standard data, but there maybe other data that belies what is proposed in the report.

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