Author: Keigo Higashino
Price: Rs. 350/-
Publisher: Hachette India
Yasuko Hanaoka thought that she was done with her abusive ex-husband Togashi when she strangled him in self-defense. Still recovering from the shock of the incident, she accepts the help of her neighbor Ishigami to get rid of the body. Everything seems to go as planned until two detectives start snooping around and identify her as a prime suspect ; a suspect who seems to have the most perfect alibis.
Ishigami thought that he had created the perfect problem – what he did not expect was that someone might actually crack that code. And that someone would be his only friend in the world!
A woman with teen-aged daughter and a turbulent past, a lonely mathematical genius, 2 detectives with a conscience and an intelligent physicist make up this amazing page turner from author Keigo Higashino touted as the Steig Larsson of Japanese fiction literature. What starts off as a crime due to self-protection turns into a sinister murder mystery with all the characters playing a mental and emotional game of cat and mouse.
The story of a lonely geek falling in love with an attractive woman is something that we have heard of many times. But what happens when the woman does not share the feelings of the geek? Would he still do anything to protect the one he loves? Would he put his life at stake for her happiness even if she is a murderess? These questions kept running through my head constantly as I was reading the book.
The good thing about the story is that it never deviated from the main plot. There were no unnecessary descriptions of the environment, cultural practices or other similar subjects ensuring that I was never distracted throughout the book. Rather, the book concentrated on human emotions and thought processes. The book also brings to light, the emotions and feelings that some people go through – especially ones with a genius intellect that don’t get to bloom and grow thanks to life’s burdens. For some like Ishigami every thought and idea that is logical is always perfect no matter what the nature of that thought or idea is. With no time to find love or pursue his true passion, Ishigami decides that life is meaningless until Yasuko Hanaoka turns out to be his savior.
I have never known anybody to be as lonely as the main protagonist Ishigami. There are several turns in the book where you stop and wonder if Ishigami is a devoted lover or an obsessed stalker! His thoughts,emotions and actions have been brought out so well that at times it brought tears to my eyes. Then there is Yasuko, working hard to create a decent life for herself and daughter Misato while trying to forget her ugly past. She never does realize Ishigami’s true feelings for her until it becomes too late. By the end of the book I was left wondering is she had become his savior again or if her conscience undid everything that Ishigami had worked for.
The most cheerful character of this lot was Yukawa , the jovial and intelligent physicist with a sense of humor, a flair for observing people and Ishigami’s only friend in the world. I was glued to the book and couldn’t put it down while reading the chapters of how Yukawa places together the pieces of the crime puzzle solely based on his knowledge of how his friend thinks and works! Truly genius.
This is the first time I am reading a novel by a Japanese author (the translated version of course) or anything do with the Japanese lifestyle unless you count the memoirs of Geisha which was actually written by an American author! Love, logic and sacrifice figure prominently in the book which offers the reader a brief a glimpse into the busy Japanese world of sushi lunch boxes, clubs, sake, milk teas and tatami mats. A world shared by the rich, middle class and the homeless and a world where cycles are an important mode of transportation ! The reader is introduced to mathematical theorems they wouldn’t have heard of (at least for me) and one cannot shake off the feeling of a connection between mathematics and philosophy! All of these details are neatly woven around a whodunit page turner from the word go! Beware of the last chapter in particular as it just might bring out the waterworks in you.
I would have finished it earlier if it were not for the kind of work that I have been saddled with! I closed the book with the following thoughts:
Love makes one do crazy things and there are no limits to what true love can drive a person to do, Will true love or innocent infatuation turns into something that cannot be described – like something that is good, crazy and bad at the same time ? – you decide
A must read for lovers of crime fiction!