SALVATION OF A SAINT by KEIGO HIGASHINO

A couple of years ago I read and reviewed the first novel by Keigo Higashino, “The Devotion of Suspect X” which I loved.  Actually let me clarify that statement – this was the author’s first novel translated into English and I read the translation.

Comparisons are odious, I think the saying goes, but it must be said that the author’s second translated novel “Salvation of a saint,” whilst clever and full of twists and turns right until the last chapter, is not as gripping as the earlier book.

That said, this is still a great read, a whodunnit that keeps you guessing right to the end.

A man, Yoshitaka Mashiba, is found dead, a day or so after he had announced his intention of leaving his wife.

His wife Ayane would seem to be the logical suspect.

But she was hundreds of miles away when the murder took place.

And from that initial conundrum, we follow the investigations of Detective Kusanagi and his assistant the young female detective Kaoru Utsumi, as they try to work out what would (almost) seem to be the perfect crime.  Kusanagi refuses to believe that the beautiful widow could be implicated in anyway, and this tends to cloud his otherwise fine judgment. Utsumi relies a lot on her female intution – and she is usually spot on, it must be said – and as a result the 2 colleagues often disagree about their investigation.

They both consult Professor Yukawa, a brainy laid-back university professor and a friend of Kusanagi since their student days.  Over many, many cups of coffee – progressing from downright awful to acceptable as the novel unfolds – the Professor guides them and helps them, approaching the puzzle of who murdered Yoshitaka Mashiba from a purely academic, theoretical standpoint.  He treats the mystery almost as a mathematical formula, unlike the 2 detectives who are clues-driven.

Fascinating.

What I missed in this novel, as compared to the first, was the palpable presence of Tokyo.  Although the city is obviously there and present in the book, it isn’t as much of an elemental, intrinsic part of the story as in “The Devotion of Suspect X.” But what is omnipresent is the (naturally) very Japanese-ness of the police and the civilians they suspect of murder. There is a calmness and a sense of restraint that you would never find in – say – an American crime thriller. No shouting, no swearing, no rushing around. Everything is measured and balanced. Policemen apologise to their suspects for possibly upsetting them. Suspects hardly show any irritation at being questioned over and over again.

Recommended for cleverness and for the atmospheric, cool, sparse writing.

Published in 2008, the English translation was published in 2012.

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