“Sometimes it’s as important to prove there is no answer to a question as it is to answer it.”

Keigo Higashino's novel in English: Translated by Alexander O. Smith and Elye J. Alexander

Originally written in the Japanese language, Salvation of a Saint was released in 2008 with its English translation being published in 2012. This book is the fourth in the Detective Galileo series by the author Keigo Higashino, who is one of the most popular and bestselling fiction authors in Japan. He has served as the 13th president (2009-13) of an organization known as the Mystery Writers of Japan.

This is perfect, actually.

What is?

This coffee. You see, the case begins with a cup of coffee.

True to his reputation, the author, in this book also, has created a compelling murder mystery – a businessman, Yoshitaka Mashiba is found dead in his house, within two days of asking for a divorce from his wife Ayane Mita, after just one year of marriage, making her the prime suspect. But she was a hundred miles away when the crime was committed, which puts the spotlight on Hiromi Wakayama, Ayane’s apprentice and Yoshitaka’s lover. And so begins an investigation into the crime by a competent Tokyo police detective Kusanagi and his assistant Kaoru Utsumi. However, Kusanagi soon starts losing his objectivity towards Ayane, due to which Utsumi is compelled to involve a physicist – Manabu Yukawa a.k.a. Detective Galileo, a university professor by profession and a college buddy of Kusanagi. Yukawa had been instrumental in Kusanagi’s previous investigations. With Utsumi’s keen observation skills, Kusanagi’s experience and Yukawa’s acumen, they together try to solve this perfect crime that the killer may have possibly pulled off.

Book review of Keigo Higashino's 'Salvation of a Saint'

One of the most unique features of this book is that the reader gets to know who the killer is, very early on in the story. But how was the crime materialized remains the only unsolved mystery and serves to add to the enigmatic aura of the plot. Though the method may seem a little far-fetched to some, but, then again, it becomes plausible because of the human mind’s ability to work in devious ways.

The thoroughness of the police department in investigating each and every possible angle to the case is commendable, a quality which proved conducive in untangling their investigation.

The reader is taken through the entire process of elimination of possible reasons and methods of committing the crime, thus adding depth to the reader’s experience.

In addition, Higashino has created some very realistic and flawed characters in the story:

Utsumi: She is heavily guided by her intuitive instincts and is (occasionally) criticized by her seniors for using the same to arrive upon her wild conjectures;

Kusanagi: He finds himself drawn towards Ayane even though he is very well aware of her being the prime suspect and that she may as well turn out to be the killer;

He knows something’s not quite right. And at the same time, he’s saying to himself, “So what?”

Ayane: She is very successful in her own right, but, in the past, she had betrayed a dear friend for a man; and

Hiromi: She fell prey to the charms of her teacher’s husband, which led to her subsequent guilt and sorrow.

The actions of all these characters have an emotional aspect to them, making them more ‘human’, which is an unusual feat achieved by the author. However, one might end up despising Yoshitaka and agree that he deserved to be punished, if not murdered, for his actions.

The author’s style of writing keeps the reader hooked and credits could also be given to the translators for a job well done, but a better judge would be someone who had read the book in both the languages.

Lastly, this book may impel the reader to devour it in one go; so, those who enjoy high doses of caffeine and sleepless nights along with a mind-bending murder mystery may as well initiate their journey of salvation by reading this book right away!