It’s definitely a howdunnit, because no matter how hard the reader tries to avoid spoilers and not to take a peek at the last pages, still they’d already discover who the culprit is right after the first chapter. And the excitement (if there is any) comes from the question of how the culprit commits the murder when there is so much distance to cover.
Mashiba Yoshitaka was found dead at his home with a cup of coffee spilled all over the floor beside him. Some kind of arsenic is detected in that coffee, so it is decided that he was murdered. But who could poison him when he was all alone at home? Is it possible then that he actually committed suicide? And if he did, why?
Among all the possibilities the police could think of, there is one where Wakayama Hiromi, the young woman who first found his body, is the one who committed the puzzling crime. Looking at the fact that she had an affair with him behind his wife’s back, Detective Kusanagi deems it possible that there was a certain “love motive” behind it. But his junior, Detective Utsumi, doesn’t share the same view. Using her instinct as a woman, she doesn’t think Hiromi would do such a thing. Instead, her suspicion is directed toward the victim’s wife, Mashiba Ayane. It’s simply because if there was any “love motive,” then Mashiba Ayane would be the only one who had the “right” to murder her husband.
However, if it is really the wife who is the murderer, there is not a single evidence to prove it. She was miles away at her parents’ home in Hokkaido, how would she put poison into her husband’s coffee in Tokyo?
Mashiba Ayane, as the prime suspect, is obviously the most outstanding character in this novel by Higashino Keigo. But Higashino clearly does not want her to stand out above all the other characters, much less above the iconic Detective Galileo. Higashino makes her a very quiet, calm and inconspicuous person, pitiful even that our main protagonist, Detective Kusanagi, falls hard for her. Unfortunately, this is what makes the book so unbearable to read. It is quite impossible to sit still and enthusiastically read a crime story where the detective, who’s supposed to be clear-headed and objective in viewing and solving cases, sort of fall in love with the suspect and is blinded by his sentiments. It’s somewhat exasperating, somehow urging the reader to stop even before they get to the last quarter of the book.
Fortunately, however, the pace picks up at that last quarter, a bit too rushed maybe for some people, but it just wants to make sure that everything is revealed one by one in an appropriate way before the plot gets longer and boring. It ends quite well, in a way that our smitten detective isn’t devastated too much.
Salvation of A Saint is actually a good blend of a character-driven plot and a proper crime story; but the narrative is a bit dull at first, almost no excitement at all, and having a blinded-by-love detective doesn’t help, either. Personally speaking, this book doesn’t quite work; but for Higashino’s fans, it might do.
This book was read and reviewed for #JanuaryInJapan reading event.