Yoshitake Mashiba is the CEO of a Tokyo company, and despite being married to the “perfect wife”, he wants to end the marriage because she can’t provide him with children. He has put everything in his personal life on hold until he accomplishes this, his one and only goal. Needless to say, he isn’t a particularly sympathetic character. Ayame, his wife, leaves town to visit her family, and Yoshitake dies suddenly, two days later, from poisoned coffee. Though she has a motive, her alibi is rock solid, and there is no evidence to suggest she got someone to poison the coffee cup for her.
So, what exactly is going on here?
This is the second of Higashino’s Detective Galileo books to be translated into English, but there is no real continuity between this and The Devotion of Suspect X (which I reviewed last year). Being so self-contained, these two books, at least, can be read in no particular order. Though, there are brief mentions to past events, they aren’t central to the plot. In fact, I only have a vague recollection of how the last book ended, and my enjoyment of this story wasn’t hampered in the least.
The “detective Galileo”, for whom the series is named, is actually a physicist named Yukawa. His college friend, Kusanagi, is a detective, and frequently enlists Yukawa’s brilliance to help solve particularly difficult cases.
The Salvation of a Saint is more of a mystery than it’s predecessor, which detailed the murder in the very beginning of the novel. In a similar vein, this book starts with an apparent admission of guilt, but there is enough ambiguity throughout the novel to leave some doubt as to who actually commits the crime. Although I think The Devotion of Suspect X is probably a better novel, with richer characters and a more character-driven story, I enjoyed the mystery of this book more than the anticipation of watching Kusanagi and Yukawa figure out what the reader already knows.
These are incredibly popular books in Japan, with Higashino being lavished with awards, a TV series, and movie franchise. And the books mostly hold up. They aren’t generic or derivative.
My only qualm, really, is with the titular Detective Galileo (and, reading my review of The Devotion of Suspect X, he also bothered me last year). He’s not only a condescending deus ex machina, but also unnecessary. Kusanagi is a good detective, though he has blind spots. As is his new partner, Utsumi, who can be stubborn but has very good instincts. These are flawed, capable people, and seem to have no problem getting the job done. But Higashino still felt the need to insert a Holmesian know-it-all.
But, thankfully, these books are centered around Kusanagi, not Yukawa.
Ultimately, I highly recommend both of these books, and can’t wait to get my hands on the third, which saw its English publication last year.
(Sorry for the disjointed review, I wrote this on three hours sleep.)