Monday, 17 February 2020

Book review: Salvation of a Saint, Keigo Higashino (2012)

I bought this book in October 2012 and have kept it unread in my collection. Not by design, it’s just the way things turned out. A sticker on the front says “Free book with purchase” so presumably I bought something else and got this gratis.

Like ‘Malice’ (2014) by the same author, ‘Salvation of a Saint’ is a murder mystery that turns on the outcome of events located in the pasts of the protagonists, in this case a man named Yoshitaka Mashiba and his wife Ayane. Yoshitaka is poisoned when his wife is away from home, and the detectives on the case work out are stumped as to who administered the substance and how.

Kaoru Utsumi, a young team member, decides to bring an old friend of Detective Kusanagi onto the case. Yukawa is a physics professor at a university with an analytical mind and a taste for high fashion. His inclusion on the investigative team allows Higashino to recount, in conversations held for the reader’s benefit, a large quantity of information about the investigation. Together, the three bring their minds to bear on what appears to be an indissoluble problem, the solution to which rests with an unlikely item of evidence.

The dynamics that evolve in the relations between Yukawa, Utsumi, Kusanagi, and Ayane also serve to lend depth to the novel’s characterisation. At the beginning of the story, conversation at a dinner party at Yoshitaka’s and Ayane’s house serves the same purpose. This kind of writing is very strong and this novelist able to give his characters multiple dimensions.

Things that are more noticeable in Japan are also on view, such as the police’s consideration for the feelings of the suspects. Yoshitaka’s house, furthermore, becomes a burden rather than a resource, reflecting the way that such a death would be viewed in Japan, where personal reputation is so precious. Selling a house where a man had been murdered might be difficult if word got out, as it must do. Details such as this provide realism.

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