Book review – Salvation of a Saint

I’ve read a couple of Keigo Higashino books, Malice and The Devotion of Suspect X, and reviewed them within these pages.  They’re both good crime novels with plenty of twists and turns, while being page-turners.  My only criticism of each was that characterisation was sacrificed for the benefit of a fast-moving plot; a fair enough trade-off.

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Salvation of a Saint (2012) finds us in the company of Police Detective Kusanagi and his physicist friend, Yakawa, known as Detective Galileo (for reasons which I don’t think are ever explained!), both of whom featured in Suspect X.  Kusanagi is investigating a case of arsenic poisoning.  The one person who has the keenest motive is the murder victim’s wife, who, whilst having motive, didn’t have the opportunity to commit the crime.  Kusanagi and his colleagues are confronted with what may be the perfect murder and seek to unearth the truth!

The book, like Suspect X, has the feel of a Columbo episode.  Columbo, if you’ll recall, always identified the murderer at the outset.  The fun was watching Columbo find his way through the labyrinth and ultimately to the murderer.  I quite like this approach and Higashino keeps you guessing about the identity of the murderer a lot longer than the Columbo episodes would have you.  Moreover, Higashino also appears to enjoy the moral ambiguity surrounding his murderers, i.e. were they morally justified in committing the crime?

Suspect X and Salvation are books three and five, respectively, of the Detective Galileo series.  If Galileo/Yakawa is intended to be the main attraction, I found him to be quite annoying throughout.  He has an antagonistic and pedantic nature, which may well we rewarding in the world of solving crimes but a trait that I found to be grating.  Salvation combats this to some extent with the introduction of a new character, Utsumi, who as Kusanagi’s young assistant spends much of her time with Yakawa.

This criticism aside, I enjoyed Salvation, though not as much as I enjoyed Suspect or Malice.  But if you’re after a crime thriller which is a page-turner and has a few twists and turns, then Salvation delivers.