The Devotion of Suspect X: The Book and the 3 Film Adaptations 容疑者Xの献身

Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X proves that a good story can spawn a series of creative products crossing media and languages. In this case, books in different languages and movies in Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin.

The Book – The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X was written by Keigo Higashino (东野圭吾) in 2005. It is the third book in the Detective Galileo series. The first 2 were a collection of short stories. This one was a full-length novel. It won numerous awards in Japan.

It was translated into English by Alexander O Smith and into Mandarin by Taiwanese 劉子倩.

I read the English translation since I can’t read Japanese. The story is not overly embellished or melodramatic. It tells the story in a rather matter-of-fact manner.

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I enjoyed the mathematical references in The Devotion of Suspect X. I appreciated the author’s confidence in his readers to understand them too.

The Plot

The mystery began with a murder. A woman accidentally killed her ex-husband when he tried to beat her for money.

Her neighbour Ishigami heard the noise and came over for a look. He was a quiet high school teacher who was also a brilliant mathematician. He promised to help her.

A few days later, the man’s naked body with his face disfigured was discovered. The ex-wife was cleared because she had an alibi during the time the man was murdered. This is strange as the audience knew that she had killed her ex-husband. So, how did the mathematician do it? And that’s the hook.

To cut the long story short (spoiler alert), Ishigami killed a homeless man and manipulated evidence to mislead the police into thinking that this homeless man was the ex-husband. 

He instructed the woman and the daughter to go shopping and let as many people see them as possible. By killing a second victim and masquerading him as the husband, he created the perfect alibi for her. 

Until she confessed.

The Japanese Film Adaptation – Suspect X 容疑者Xの献身

I watched Suspect X (容疑者Xの献身) before I read the book.

I am familiar with the characters in the movie because I have seen the Japanese TV drama series called Galileo featuring the same characters. The TV series was based on the first 2 books of Keigo Higashino’s Detective Galileo series.

It stars Fukuyama Masaharu, Kou Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi & Kazuki Kitamura.

Masaharu plays the genius physicist Professor Yukawa who helps rookie police officer Kou to solve crimes with puzzling circumstances. For example, instantaneous human combustion, a haunted house, a death mask, and more.

Professor Yukawa is always able to find the scientific explanation behind the strange phenomenon. Where Detective Kou represents emotions, Yukawa represents cool logic. I enjoy their bantering and interactions.  

I find the drama series intriguing and entertaining so I expected the movie Suspect X featuring the same people to be equally good.

After Thoughts

I found the ending sad because Ishigami’s sacrifice came to naught. His despairing scream at the end of the movie was painful.

The woman he was protecting, the woman who killed her ex-husband, came forward after Yukawa told her the truth. The futility of it all. I felt like screaming too.

If it was a Coen brothers’ movie, they would have let the murderers got away with it. But not the Japanese. Ethics and the law win the day.

The movie succeeded in getting me to ponder about love and sacrifice. Ishigami thought he was displaying true love when he sacrificed himself for the woman he loved. But true love is not to cover up or run away. True love stands up and faces judgment bravely.

The Korean Movie Adaptation – Perfect Number

The Korean adaptation came out in 2012 and is called “Perfect Number”. This adaptation departed from the original substantially.

Firstly, Professor Yukawa was missing. He was replaced with a competent but bland detective. Second, it changed the psychology of Ishigami. The movie made him out to be a tortured soul. The Ishigami of the book didn’t really live in angst. He merely finds life meaningless.

The film has beautiful cinematography but is a tad too melodramatic for me.

The Chinese Movie Adaptation – 嫌疑人X的献身

The Chinese adaptation of The Devotion of Suspect X came out in 2017. Nearly a decade after the Japanese Suspect X and 5 years after the Korean Perfect Number.

It has big shoes to fill. Unfortunately, it failed to do so.

Firstly, the twist was given away in the beginning of the movie. Secondly, too much explaining that could have been left to the audience to figure out. I have the feeling that the director thought the audience too dumb to understand what’s going on. Thirdly, overacting.

A reviewer said it is like a patchwork of the 2008 and 2012 adaptations. Trying to please too many and ended up pleasing no one.

To end,

No surprise that I prefer the Japanese adaptation. But all the film adaptations failed to accentuate how the cover-up depended on mathematical thinking. Ultimately, the book wins.

Read the Book

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