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salvation of a saint

9 september 2018

In Keigo Higashino's Malice, we are shown a man finding the body of a murder victim, but quickly learn that nothing about that discovery was accidental, or even accurate. In Higashino's Devotion of Suspect X, we are shown murder itself, and quickly learn that nothing about what we've just seen can be trusted. In Salvation of a Saint we see a woman plan a murder, we see the murder come off and the outline of the body on the floor as the forensics team potters around the house … and by this point, if we are Higashino fans, we know that nothing can have happened as it seems.

Salvation of a Saint is slighter than its predecessors, though, more of a strict geometric puzzle. Once again, the physicist Yukawa plays Sherlock Holmes to his police-detective friend Kusanagi's baffled Lestrade. Kusanagi is assisted by a new sidekick, Utsumi, who adds a woman's perspective to the investigation.

Utsumi's perspective is valuable because the killer, Ayane, had every motive to murder her husband. Yoshitaka Mashiba is ostentatiously leaving her for another woman, and not just any woman, but Ayane's own artistic apprentice, Hiromi. Motive, yes: but a complete lack of means or opportunity, and a cast-iron alibi. Cherchez la femme is nevertheless Utsumi's principle, and she provides a necessary counterpoint to Kusanagi, who is somewhat infatuated with the widow/prime-suspect.

The problem boils down to how you murder somebody in Tokyo when you are visiting your parents in Sapporo. As Holmes famously said, "once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." Yukawa's problem is that the improbable, in this case, is virtually indistinguishable from the impossible.

Higashino Keigo. Salvation of a Saint. 2008. Translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander. New York: Minotaur [St. Martin's], 2012.