Thursday, May 02, 2013

Review of : "Salvation of a Saint" by Keigo Higashino

I received this book, "Salvation of a Saint"  by Keigo Higashino, for review, as part of the Blogadda Book Reviews Program. The book is published in India by Abacus. The original is in Japanese, with this being a translation by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander.

I have never read Higashimo, or Steig Larson to whom he is compared.   And after being fed with thrillers and murder mysteries which deal with  several subsidiary murders in association with the main murder, violent killings, and discovering bodies stuffed under railway bridges, monetary crimes, and white collar cheating, this book was like suddenly feeling a cool ocean breeze at high noon in the most congested part of Mumbai.

This  can almost be classified as a murder mystery/thriller done with a lot of civilized finesse.   

Ayane Mashiba is a lady who teaches how to make quilts, along with an  assistant,  Hiromi Wakayama , and runs classes.  Ayane is married to Yoshitaka Mashiba, who  can be classified as a person with all head and no heart.  Yoshitaka has a single point agenda in his marriage. To have kids. All former girlfriends and his wife Ayane are treated by him like banks treat NPA's (non performing assets).  After a year of marriage, and  no sign of children, he tells his wife that she needs to go.

She does go , for a few days to visit her parents in Hokkaido,  leaving a key with her assistant Hiromi.  Yoshitaka is found dead at some time in her absence.
How the police detectives, handle the investigation,  their various techniques, involving an academic researcher in their efforts,  tracing the past girlfriend history of Yoshitaka , and giving credence to theories suggested by a woman detective based on  her special intuitive smart thinking, is a lesson in how to conduct an investigation without unpleasantness and rancour. 

Interpersonal relationships are discovered amidst the various persons being investigated.  This is also a story where  the human side of a cop peeps in every now and then. One of the detectives , Kusanagi , finds himself developing a soft corner for the main suspect, which is turning about to be Ayane.  

This is almost a perfect crime with the main suspect hundreds of miles away from the victim when he dies.  Of poisoning.  Through coffee.

The characters are very well sketched . The men appear ruthless and ambitious , and the women, actually much smarter.  The writer takes us into the mind of an educated Japanese woman,  and how she thinks,  surrounded as she is, by social pressures,  exposure to overseas education, the need to follow certain customs,  and how she has developed such a strength in her thinking and planning.   

How the police  search for clues in the simplest of actions like watering garden plants,  observations of cupboards and kitchens, requests to Ayane and Hiromi, of all kinds without being overbearing or impolite, all draw a picture of what can be called a very "civilized" investigation,  without any kind of violence and threatening.

The book moves at an excellent speed, keeping you very involved and wondering  what is next.  Bereft of violent killings,  people in handcuffs, four letter swearing,  and folks going around with guns like you and I go around wearing watches, this is one of the best thrillers I have read in a long time.

One learns a lot  about the human mind,  Japanese society, the strength of a woman,  and her amazing  ability to work within the constraints imposed on her.

You need to absolutely read the book to find out how the killing was done.  It cannot be revealed here.
I know murder cannot be called civilized.  But this one really describes one, and one has to applaud the finesse .... 

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!


  1. Hey Suranga,
    Is this book for yours to keep? If so can you loan it to me? I'll get someone to pick it up from you. BTW loaning means that I'll keep it for a few months and return it when i visit Mumbai next or if my brothers and I meet up elsewhere.

  2. I read all my novels on my iPod Touch, and if this book ever gets carried by Barnes and Noble, I will buy it. It sounds like a very good read and education.

    1. Hi Lorna, Thank you for commenting ! It seems this book is available on Amazon...according to a friend in the US who ordered it.

  3. Hey...nice review there.
    You can read my PoV here:

  4. Nice review. I got to pick it up soon.

    Came to your blog via R's mom's blog. Will be back for reading more posts.

  5. Hello.
    Except names, there's almost nothing that talks of the Japanese culture in the Salvation. May be, their removal of shoes before entering the houses.
    Everything else seemed as if it could've happened anywhere else.

    More about Japanese culture is in Devotion, you almost feel like you are amidst Japanese people for as long as you are reading it.

    Yes, his novels aren't about what happened or who did it, they are more about how was it done.. :)