Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

15 April, 2013

Salvation of a Saint

Many of you know how much I enjoyed and admired Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X which I read last year. In the interim, a drama series based on his short stories, Higashino Keigo Mysteries, aired in Japan and I watched with glee as he deconstructed the various mystery tropes that make up the successful crime writer’s arsenal.

And so I couldn’t wait to read Salvation of a Saint which once again featured the maverick and eccentric Detective Galileo aka phyics Professor Manabu Yukawa of the fictional Teito University in Tokyo who is invaluable in assisting the police investigations of his college friend, Detective Kusanagi. I was also delighted to see the appearance of Kusanagi’s deputy, Detective Kaoru Utsumi, who is one of the main characters in the tv series Galileo which aired in Japan in 2007 and which was my first introduction to Higashino’s mysteries.

Unlike in The Devotion of Suspect X, Professor Yukawa only makes an appearance from Chapter 9. The action is focused more on the police investigation into the murder of Yoshitaka Mashiba, a wealthy businessman with a beautiful wife, Ayane, who is a successful patchwork artist and teacher and a much younger lover, Hiromi Wakayama, who also happens to be his wife’s apprentice. But on that fateful weekend, Ayane was in Sapporo visiting her aging parents and Mashiba was supposedly alone. Told in flashbacks, the back story of the characters are slowly revealed in tandem with the progression of the investigation. When Utsumi suspects that her superior, Kusanagi, is being emotionally swayed by the captivatingly tragic Ayane, she calls upon Yukawa for his assistance. For the detectives are baffled at the inexplicable manner of Mashiba’s death and are unable to find any clues.

Unlike a conventional crime thriller, we are given a small number of suspects right from the beginning who are then slowly narrowed down as the police uncover clues. Higashino seems more interested in fleshing out the motives of each character through their interaction with the victim and unraveling the final trick with which the murder, if it can be proved, was carried out. Like with The Devotion of Suspect X, the mechanism of this trick is deceptively clever, if not slightly simpler as is the story itself which is a straightforward crime passionel.

This is a quiet book where the violence has already happened and the characters are dealing with the aftermath, all the while fending off prying questions by the police. There are no conflicts that are about to erupt. Everything is kept in check by the suspects. But this, contrarily ratchets up the tension because you aren’t exactly sure how the characters are going respond. Will they continue to put up a brave face or will they crack?

The mystery and the characters were satisfying but I am still unsure about the narrative structure and whether the flashbacks provided a cohesive plot. In some ways, I would have preferred if Higashino had embedded the characters’ pasts into the general narrative instead of giving us chunks in between which would have provided a more seamless reading experience.

The other thing of which I would have liked a little more explanation was the rift in Yukawa and Kusanagi’s relationship which I am suspecting happened in the previous book but which I seem to have forgotten.

Although I preferred The Devotion of Suspect X because of its sheer, shocking ingenuity, Salvation of a Saint is a solid crime novel providing you with a glimpse of affluent Tokyo and flawless houses that hide seething emotions just below the surface. Keigo Higashino’s work is hugely popular in Japan with a second series of Galileo and a film set to be released this year so I’m excited to see his novels featuring Prof. Yukawa appearing in English. I can’t wait to read more!

I would like to thank the lovely people at Little Brown who kindly sent me copy of Salvation of a Saint to review.

14 Responses to “Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino”

  1. winstonsdad Says:

    I ve the first book lined up for next year J lit challenge ,I hope to get this one as well as it seems a lot more like a normal crime novel than suspect x does be nice to compare the two ,all the best stu

  2. As with Stu, I’ve the devotion, sat waiting my attention and have read enough reviews that at some point I’ll will read this. I like the way in a lot of Japanese Lit, that the crime isn’t the major but a way to explore the characters

    • sakura Says:

      It’s certainly a great way to explore society’s problems. I think I read mysteries more for the social aspect than the mystery itself but The Devotion of Suspect X has an amazing trick which would never have occurred to me.

  3. TracyK Says:

    This sounds very interesting. I have the first one in the series to borrow from my husband, will probably get to this one too. Very nice review, I enjoyed it.

  4. Bee Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Salvation of a Saint, not as much as I liked Suspect X, but enough to wish that the book didn’t end so quickly. I didn’t/couldn’t empathize with the female protaganist in Salvation the way I did with the Maths teacher in Suspect X. On a recent flight, I caught the Korean remake of Suspect X (called The Perfect Number) and I thought the Korean version was even better than the Japanese one. IMO, no-one does pathos in movies/dramas like the Koreans! They just stick a knife in you and twist it in every possible way.

    • sakura Says:

      I didn’t know there was a Korean adaptation – I really need to check it out! And I agree about the pathos, they just twist and twist and twist, don’t they?

  5. aartichapati Says:

    I’ll have to read this one! I don’t really do contemporary mysteries, though I really like historical ones, but I think I’d like the contemporary ones more if they were set in different places 🙂

    • sakura Says:

      Do try it Aarti, although I recommend starting with The Devotion of Suspect X. I do know what you mean about mysteries set in a different place – it adds another dimension to the mystery, doesn’t it?

    • Maggie Sim Says:

      Have you read the Japanese mystery series by I.J. Parker which is set in the samurai era? I enjoyed them immensely! As I am typing this, I
      am thinking I should re-read the entire series.

      • sakura Says:

        No I haven’t but I think I read a short story by her. It is on my list though. I used to love reading Laura Joh Rowland’s Japanese mysteries too.

  6. Bellezza Says:

    I’ve been meaning to read The Devotion of Suspect X for quite some time, now I add this to follow. Perhaps for he Japanese Literature Challenge 7? Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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