Friday, 10 May 2013

Book Review: Salvation of a Saint

As a genre who-dun-its have been perennial favorites. However, there are very few contemporary writers who can raise the ordinary to extraordinary successfully. When I started reading Salvation of a Saint by Japanese author, Keigo Higashino, I was worried because of the cultural differences and also because it is a translation. However, just 100 pages into the book and I was glued to it for the day. The names were difficult to remember at first. True. But, everything else went seamlessly.

The plot is classic, the murder and the motive are clearly set out in the first chapter and there is very little doubt about who must have bumped the victim off. So far great! What happens after this is where most stories lose their way while the classics shine.

The author introduces a myriad other themes once the investigation starts. There is a wronged wife, her apprentice who was also the husband's mistress and the police investigators who are at loggerheads with their theories.

As the plot thickens more and more spices are added to the mix and ex-mistresses and strange fetishes surface. Agreed that a man who only wants a wife to have children is a tad two-dimensional and the fact that his modus operandi to procure wives/girlfriends does not change while making him a sitting duck for a victim is also very unimaginative. But, what the hell! It's a story. Right? If you ask me, wrong, the Cleveland kidnapper/rapist got all the three girls by offering them lift. Truth is mostly more bizarre than fiction. No?

So, the husband dies under classic mysterious circumstances, drinking poison with his coffee! The wife and the mistress are both suspects. So far, plain vanilla. The only glitch - the wife was in another city when the murder occurs while the mistress had the house key. So, is this going to be just an open and shut case?

Not a chance since one of the detectives in charge of the case falls headlong in love while the other comes across as a methodical control freak. And they get to work leaving no stones un-turned to discredit each other's theories.

Halfway through, when you are sure that nothing can save the plot now, in comes detective Galileo the arch-typical physics professor with razor-sharp brain and athletic body with a penchant for coffee. He is the ultimate spice that stirs-up the mix and starts dumping all probable solutions to the mystery by turning then on their heads.

So, what now? I hate spoilers and I'll not mention any here though I'd love to.

What follows is very intricate, very improbable and a very interesting read. I would recommend it to anyone who loves a little mystery for a sultry summer read.

Know the author:
Born in Osaka, Keigi Higashino started writing novels while still working as an engineer at Nippon Denso Co. (presently DENSO). He won the Edogawa Rampo Award, which is awarded annually to the unpublished finest mystery work, in 1985 for the novel Hōkago (After School) at age 27. Subsequently, he quit his job and started a career as a writer in Tokyo.
In 1999, he won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award for the novel Naoko, which was translated into English by Kerim Yasar and published by Vertical Inc. in 2004. In 2006, he won the 134th Naoki Prize for The Devotion of Suspect X (Yōgisha X no Kenshin). His novels had been nominated five times before winning the award. The novel also won the 6th Honkaku Mystery Grand Prize and was ranked as the number-one novel by Kono Mystery ga Sugoi! 2006 and 2006 Honkaku Mystery Best 10, annual mystery fiction guide books published in Japan.
The English translation of The Devotion of Suspect X was nominated for the 2012 Edgar Award for Best Novel and the 2012 Barry Award for Best First Novel.
He writes not only mystery novels but also essays and story books for children. The style of writing differs from his novels, but basically he does not use as many characters as in his novels.

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