X” by Keigo Higashino


By Brian Barrett, Readers’ Advisory Librarian

In this riveting mystery, the focus is not on who commits the crime, but what happens after the crime is committed. Early in the story,Yasuko Hanaoka kills her abusive ex-husband when she and her teenage daughter are forced to defend themselves against him. What follows is a high-stakes chess match between two brilliant minds: Yasuko’s next door neighbor Ishigami, a quiet high school math teacher harboring a secret crush on the beautiful Yasuko, who assists in covering up the crime; and Ishigami’s former university classmate Yukawa, a talented physicist, who is helping the police with its investigation. After a brief reunion between the two, Yukawa is convinced Ishigami is somehow involved with the crime.

It is fascinating to read how Ishigami attempts to stay one step ahead of the police by misdirecting them at every turn. The plot is flawlessly constructed and tension mounts as the motivations of each character are slowly revealed. The writing style is straightforward with clear prose and vivid description. The reader gets to experience everyday life in Tokyo, such as the public transport system, crowded apartment buildings and police procedure. Twists and turns abound as one needs to pay close attention to the details to see if the unassuming math teacher will outwit the clever physicist. The interaction between these two intriguing characters is captivating, with even the most tedious conversation occasionally divulging important clues.

Fans of police procedurals and mysteries set in other nations may enjoy this gripping story. Enormously popular in Japan, this mystery was recently translated into English and has been nominated for the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Novel.

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