Saturday, May 04, 2013

Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino: Impressions


I would begin and end my review with those three words had this not been a review copy. 'Salvation of a Saint' by Keigo Higashino landed in my kitty as a book reviewer as a result of fierce PR activity that this writer/publisher is wont to do. I remember the massive noise Higashino's first book - The Devotion of Suspect X - made in India's blogging circles.

I finally managed to finish the book today after lugging it around for a while. And I call it lugging not for its weight or volume but for its sheer bore factor. Higashino is a genius with his basic plots but boy, does he drag his feet. If I was disappointed with Suspect X, I've downright disliked Salvation. Like the previous book, I have a problem with this one's title too. 'Salvation of a Saint' makes no sense right to the end. I'm beginning to wonder if these are translation problems. Perhaps the Japanese title has nuances that are lost to English readers.

The plot revolves around the principal characters of Ayane Mashiba, wife of a young and wealthy Yoshitaka Mashiba, Hiromi Wakayama, her young apprentice and a bunch of detectives. Ayane and Hiromi are prime suspects when Yoshitaka is found dead from poisoning. In true Higashino style, a case is built up with iron clad alibis, investigative dead ends, scientific solutions, and with even a romantic angle thrown in for good measure. But for the longest time - almost two thirds of the book - the plot goes round and round in the same place exploring the same angle. You can almost picture the author laboring to fill pages to match the commissioning editor's page count. I was tempted to abandon the book very often at this point. It must be super hard being a thriller writer, weaving in dead ends and sub plots in a story, staving off the end the way Higashino does. Yawn.

The book picks up pace only in the last 50 pages, when the real story and the real suspect are brought to the fore. There has been no evolution of style from the last book, and Higashino still writes in his crisp, visual manner, and with an evident love of science and forensics. If I make the mistake of reading a third book by the same author, I'll perhaps be able to tell that it is a Higashino book even without looking at the book cover. Familiar characters from the Metropolitan Police Department hold the plot, including detectives Kusanagi and Kishitani and chief Mamiya. A new addition to the characters, in the form of Utsumi, a junior female detective, is welcome. We also meet eccentric physicist Professor Yukawa from the Imperial University, who is instrumental in cracking the case.

When the mystery is finally revealed to the reader, it is nothing short of amazing, but it was definitely not worth my time and patience. Don't think I'm going down a Higashino lane again.

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