Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino 東野 圭吾 (translated by Alexander O Smith)
There’s always a difference of emphasis between the written and visual forms of storytelling. An author relies on the reader to create the appropriate images in the mind as a response to processing the words. The director of a film or television episode shows the audience images as an integral part of the storytelling process. Indeed, in many important ways, the visual iconography is more important than the words the characters speak because we get to see the mis en scène, to judge the meaning of the various personal signifiers such as clothing, the presence or absence of visible tattoos, etc., and to observe the behavioural signals. When you put the complete communication package together, the visual medium allows the audience the best chance to judge the credibility of the creative process in bringing the story to the screen.
To understand the relevance of this introduction to Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino 東野 圭吾 (translated by Alexander O Smith) (Minotaur Books, 2012), we need to go back to Tantei Galileo (探偵ガリレオ) (1998) which first introduced Dr. Manabu Yukawa, the amateur detective, to the Japanese public. We now move forward to Yōgisha X no Kenshin (容疑者Xの献身) (2005) a novel which won both Japan’s Naoki Prize and Honkaku Mystery Grand Prize in 2005. It was duly translated and published as The Devotion of Suspect X (Minotaur Books, 2011) In 2007, the television series featuring the university professor often called in to advise the police (sadly only ten episodes in length) was aired as Galileo or Garireo or ガリレオ. Switching back to the novel form, we have Seijo no Kyūsai (聖女の救済) published in 2008 and now published in America as Salvation of a Saint. The publication of the Japanese edition was timed to coincide with the launch of the film version of Galileo: The Sacrifice of Suspect X or Yôgisha X no kenshin (2008). We now come up to date with the first chance to read the next exciting episode in the Galileo series.
To introduce the form of the books, The Devotion of Suspect X is an inverted crime story, i.e. we see the death in the first part of the book and are therefore focused on the way in which the “mastermind” constructs an alibi. It’s a remarkably inventive book and an even more powerful film. As to the puzzle of the alibi, I can’t recall reading or seeing this particular method of deflecting the police investigation before (although it’s quite common in forward planning a murder). In Salvation of a Saint, we come back to the conventional police procedural format. Shumpei Kusanagi and Kaoru Utsumi draw what could be a suicide case and, when it seems more likely to be a murder, they disagree on whether the deceased’s wife is the best murder suspect — one obvious alternate suspect is the deceased’s mistress. The problem for them to resolve is simple. Over the weekend when the death occurred, the wife was clearly in a completely different part of Japan. Given the number of witnesses who saw her during the time she spent away from home, it would be impossible for her to have returned to administer the poison. Kusanagi believes in the alibi as a complete defence. Utsumi is equally convinced that the wife killed her husband and manufactured the alibi. Unfortunately, she’s unable to explain how the poison appeared in the deceased’s coffee. That, of course, is where our good professor comes into play. He’s the one we all rely on to solve “impossible” crimes. Except this crime initially defeats him at a theoretical level. It’s only when he hears arguments from both detectives and then follows up on their independent lines of investigation that he begins to see how it might have been possible and who must therefore be guilty of the crime.
To make it clear, almost all the spade work is done by the two detectives and, despite his annoyance at Utsumi’s insistence her instinct is correct, it’s the behaviour of Kusanagi that ultimately proves decisive — albeit not quite in the way you might expect. This takes nothing away from the even-handed way in which Yukawa arbitrates between the two detectives. Once he understands the real nature of the problem, he has to see beyond his initial impression that this is a perfect crime without any evidence to show who did it, and provoke the two detectives into finding the right evidence of both motive and method. At this point, I’m going to admit complete astonishment at the brilliance of the solution. I’ve been reading mystery books for more than fifty years and I have never, repeat never, encountered anything quite like this before. It’s one of these jaw-dropping answers that, despite the obvious difficulty the murderer would have had in executing it, is nevertheless so credible given the characters of those involved. Keigo Higashino has done it again! This is quite simply a masterpiece of detective fiction. No matter what the format you choose to rely on, you should track down the television series which is good and the film which is outstanding. This just adds the cherry on the cake.
A copy of this book was sent to me for review.
You may be interested to know that the book is also available as an audiobook from Macmillan Audio. You can listen to a clip if you click here.
For other work based on Keigo Higashino’s writing, see:
11 Moji no Satsujin or 11文字の殺人 (2011)
Broken or The Hovering Blade or Banghwanghaneun Kalnal or 방황하는 칼날 (2014)
Bunshin or 分身 (2012)
Galileo or Garireo or ガリレオ
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 1 and 2
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 3 and 4
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 5 and 6
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 7, 8 and 9
Galileo 2 or ガリレオ (第2期) (2013) episodes 10 and 11 — the adaptation of Salvation of a Saint
Galileo: The Sacrifice of Suspect X or Yôgisha X no kenshin (2008)
Midsummer Formula or Manatsu no Houteishiki or 真夏の方程式 (2013)
The Murder in Kairotei or Kairoutei Satsujin Jiken or 回廊亭殺人事件 (2011)
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 1 to 4
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 5 to 8
Naniwa Junior Detectives or Naniwa Shonen Tanteida or 浪花少年探偵団 (2012) episodes 9 to 12
Platinum Data or プラチナデータ (2013)
Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 1 to 5
Thursday Theatre Keigo Higashino Mystery or 東野圭吾ミステリーズ (2012) episodes 6 to 11
White Night or Baekyahaeng or 백야행 : 하얀 어둠 속을 걷다 (2009)
The Wings of the Kirin or Kirin no Tsubasa: Gekijoban Shinzanmono or 麒麟の翼 ～劇場版・新参者～ (2012)