Sunday, April 28, 2013


Book: Salvation of a Saint
Author: Keigo Higashino
Publisher: Hachette
Pages: 377

His previous novel, The Devotion of Suspect X, left me feeling unusually horrified. It left a bitter aftertaste in my mouth that I can still recall, even though it's been over 11 months since I read it. In contrast, Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino tries hard to achieve the same effect without as much success.

As in the previous book, love, and the loss of it, plays an important role here too. Yoshitaka Mashiba, a rich businessman, announces his decision to divorce his wife, Ayane Mita, a famous patchwork artist, for her failure to conceive within a year of marriage. It is not a betrayal since Mashiba had made it clear at the beginning that he was marrying for the sake of fathering a child.

The unhappy Ayane, suspicious that her husband may be having an affair with her apprentice Hiromi Wakayama, leaves for her parents' home saying that her father is ill. A day later, Mashiba is found poisoned to death in his sprawling home. 

The body is discovered by Hiromi, and for a while it seems as if she were the killer. But very soon it becomes evident that Ayane is the only one with a motive, even as the clues all point out to her. But the fact that she was hundreds of miles away raises doubts as to her complicity in the crime.

When Detective Kusanagi develops feelings for Ayane, he shuts himself to all indications of her guilt, preferring to lay the blame on the other characters in the drama. His junior, Utsumi, however, is convinced of Ayane's crime and seeks the help of Manaba Yukawa, a physics professor and amateur sleuth, popularly known as Detective Galileo, to solve the mystery.

Both this novel and the previous one begin in the same way. The murder happens early on, and we are left in no doubt as to the identity of the murderer. The only mystery concerns how the deed was done, and in this we are as much in the dark as the esteemed personnel of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police.

This novel didn't quite touch me the way The Devotion had. Nor was the culture of Japan — details that helped the locale to grow on you — as evident here as it was in the previous novel. I also felt that this novel slipped up a little in the second last chapter when the author embarks on a flashback. 

But the book has its strengths. The beauty of the murderer is that even after the truth about how the murder was committed becomes known to us, we still find it difficult to believe that she could have done the deed or that such an elegant and beautiful woman as Ayane could have thought of what is very clearly the perfect crime.

The most horrendous murders are not those that hit the headlines, but those that remain unsolved and unsolvable, wrapped as they are in their cloak of domesticity and ordinariness. The murder in Salvation of a Saint is like that.

Not quite in the class of Higashino's earlier book, this one is still a fantastic read.

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1 comment:

  1. Well I definitely want to check out the other one, it sounds great, and I love reading about Japanese culture as well.



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