By Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith (Translator). Grade: B+
From the author of the internationally bestselling, award-winning “The Devotion of Suspect X” comes the latest novel featuring “Detective Galileo”.
In 2011, “The Devotion of Suspect X” was a hit with critics and readers alike. The first major English language publication from the most popular bestselling writer in Japan, it was acclaimed as “stunning,” “brilliant,” and “ingenious.” Now physics professor Manabu Yukawa–Detective Galileo–returns in a new case of impossible murder, where instincts clash with facts and theory with reality.
Yoshitaka, who was about to leave his marriage and his wife, is poisoned by arsenic-laced coffee and dies. His wife, Ayane, is the logical suspect–except that she was hundreds of miles away when he was murdered. The lead detective, Tokyo Police Detective Kusanagi, is immediately smitten with her and refuses to believe that she could have had anything to do with the crime. His assistant, Kaoru Utsumi, however, is convinced Ayane is guilty. While Utsumi’s instincts tell her one thing, the facts of the case are another matter. So she does what her boss has done for years when stymied–she calls upon Professor Manabu Yukawa.
But even the brilliant mind of Dr. Yukawa has trouble with this one, and he must somehow find a way to solve an impossible murder and capture a very real, very deadly murderer.
“Salvation of a Saint” is Keigo Higashino at his mind-bending best, pitting emotion against fact in a beautifully plotted crime novel filled with twists and reverses that will astonish and surprise even the most attentive and jaded of readers.
When Devotion of Suspect X came out, it created quite a furor. We got a copy as well, and Sugandha, the reviewer who reviewed it, gave it a glowing recommendation, even badgering me to pick it up. But the names of the characters, frankly, scared me, and I already had a huge TBR list. I skipped it, but got a second chance with this one.
The plot is pretty innocuous at the surface. Ayane and Yoshikata are a beautiful couple, and arguing when the book opens. Yoshikata – yes, the names are a mouthful – wants a divorce because it was been a year into their marriage and Ayane is still not pregnant, which is a deal breaker. He also casually hints that he has a substitute ready. One look at her beautiful apprentice who is spending a lot of time around them, and Ayane puts two and two together. Backed into a corner, Ayane agrees but asks to make a visit to her parents’ house first. On her second day there, she receives the news that her husband has been found dead by none other than the apprentice Hiromi Wakayama. There was poison in his coffee, and it looks like a suicide at the surface. But he had a dinner reservation for two scheduled for an hour later, and there is no motive for suicide. A murder then? But there was also no one in there with him, and no signs of anyone else coming in since Hiromi left him that morning.
Does that mean Hiromi killed him? But why, when he has already asked his wife for a divorce? And why would she kill the father of her unborn baby? Ayane has the most obvious motive, especially when it’s discovered that Hiromi is also pregnant. But Ayane was thousands of miles away, and her story of how she spent those two days checks out. Her alibi is unshakable. It does not matters that the detective in charge Kusanagi finds himself developing feelings for her. Fortunately for the police department, Utsumi, the other detective, has a clearer head, and knows Ayane is involved in something fishy. Determined to get to the bottom, she brings in Detective Galileo, who will ultimately unravel the case.
It’s difficult for me to pin point what I didn’t like about the book. Overall, it’s an excellent story with deft characterization. The narration is smooth, and the build-up doesn’t take half the novel. There is excellent conflict and the twist unthinkable. But it’s not the fast-paced action novel I was expecting. Kusanagi wastes too much time chasing blind alleys in an effort to deflect the blame from Ayane. There is little action, just regular mundane police work, combing through the most minute details in hopes for a break. The breathless chase that gives you an adrenaline rush is missing. The reader is almost a hundred percent sure that it’s Ayane. It’s only a matter of figuring out HOW to prove it.
Even Detective Galileo’s Holmesian persona fails to impress. The whole novel, except the last twenty pages, is sort of a been-there-done-that deal. There is also another major drawback: it’s not the kind of the book which will actively engage the reader. There are no clues cleverly set up to make the reader guess how the crime was accomplished. The solution is so outlandish that it is almost impossible for an average reader to even try and guess. It was nice cheerleading for the scientific method, but wasn’t very intellectually intriguing.
So, thumbs up from me as far as the narration and setting goes, but speeding up the second half, or maybe plotting it in such a way that a reader has a say would have made it unputdownable. Overall, a decent read, but nothing more.