Book review: 『聖女の救済』 by Keigo Higashino

Introduction

Title: 『聖女の救済』 (せいじょのきゅうさい)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫
424 pages

This book has been translated into English under the title Salvation of a Saint by Alexander O. Smith. It is the 5th book of the Galileo series, but only the second novel. Interestingly, only the novels of the series have been translated into English. The other books, which are collection of short stories, did not make it to the English-speaking public.

From what I gather, these are the titles of the series in Japanese and English:

Format#Japanese#English
Short Stories1探偵ガリレオ
Short Stories2予知夢
Novel3容疑者Xの献身1The Devotion of Suspect X
Short Stories4ガリレオの苦悩
Novel5聖女の救済2Salvation of a Saint
Novel6真夏の方程式3A Midsummer’s Equation
Short Stories7虚像の道化師
Short Stories8禁断の魔術
Novel9沈黙のパレード4Silent Parade

The last English title, Silent Parade, is scheduled for October 2021 I believe.

I think that you will have a different experience if you read the books in English and in Japanese. The two first books in Japanese build Kusanagi and Yukawa’s relationship, so I was very affected, as a reader, when they drift apart in the next books. I don’t believe that this is something one can truly appreciate by reading the novels alone. Similar, Kaoru Utsumi (who works with Kusanagi) was introduced in the fourth book in Japanese. So when you read Salvation of a Saint in English, she is just there, which can be strange because she wasn’t present in The Devotion of Suspect X.

I had read the Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint in translation before learning Japanese. So 『聖女の救済』 was a re-read to me, but now I am reading all the books in Japanese in order, so my experience was a bit different.

Short review

An engrossing murder mystery where finding how the murder was committed will give the key to who committed the murder. Very addictive all along with a surprising ending. The only thing that I disliked is the role given to detective Kusanagi, whose attitude in the story was exaggerated and not credible.

Review

Even as a re-read, this book was a real treat for me, and if you like tricky mystery and quasi-impossible murders, you will certainly love it too.

I love the structure of the book and how much it focuses on the case. The whole book is devoted to solving the murder and there is not a single scene that does not contribute to the investigation. The downside is that the characters might lack some depth, as we don’t really learn much about them or spend much time with them outside of their connection to the case. But it makes for an addictive detective story, and I just could not put it down even though I already knew the solution.

The end is really good too, it turns an excellent murder mystery into one of genius.

There is not much action, suspense or many turnarounds in this novel, but if you like more classic investigations based on interviewing people and following every lead, you will love 『聖女の救済』. It is also a tricky and exciting howdunnit.

However, now that I have read all the preceding books in Japanese, there is something that really bothered me in this novel: how Kusanagi is portrayed. Even though the key character of the series is professor Yukawa, alias Galileo, the main character has always been detective Kusanagi. He is the one that the reader follows, he is the one who leads the investigation and asks for Yukawa’s help to solve the scientific part of the case. What I liked in the duo is that, although Yukawa is clearly the most talented one, Kusanagi is a good detective overall.

Kusanagi is my favourite character in the series, and I just could not stand how he was portrayed in 『聖女の救済』. He appears foolish, stubborn, blind and at times detestable. He is rude with Kaoru, his younger female assistant. He is supposed to be an experienced detective, but he lets personal feelings interfere with the case, and acts like an immature schoolboy. Yukawa says himself, talking about Kusanagi: あの男は刑事としてなかなか優秀だよ, but it is hard to believe in this novel.

This is not something that bothered me when I first read the book in translation, but I found it very irritating this time. I wonder if this trend will continue in the following books, but I hope not.

I will soon find out!