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!

Book review: 『ガリレオの苦悩』 by Keigo Higashino

Introduction

Title: 『ガリレオの苦悩』 (がりれおのくのう)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫
p376.

This is the fourth book in the Galileo series. It is a collection of five short stories. Four of the short stories were first published in various magazines and one was written for the book edition, which was first published in 2008.

As far as I know, this book has not been translated into English.

Review

As usual, I found the cases in this book very entertaining, but to be honest, this book might be the one I enjoyed reading the least so far. (I am reading the whole Galileo series in order).

The first short story introduces detective Kaoru Utsumi who now works with Kusanagi. I read Salvation of a Saint some years ago in translation – which is the next book of the series and features Kaoru – but I did not remember the character of Kaoru well. As a result, I was very surprised by this addition and even more surprised (disappointed might be the correct word) to see her take Kusanagi’s place.

In the five short stories, what used to be the duo Kusanagi-Yukawa is now the duo Kaoru-Yukawa. It is always Kaoru who asks for Yukawa’s help, accompanies him in his experiences and discusses the case with him. Kusanagi is very absent from the case and does not seem to be doing anything. Worse, he appears as a stubborn and not very good detective in the first story, contrary to the zealous and bright Kaoru.

This might be an unpopular opinion (and the next books might make me change my mind), but I don’t like Kaoru. There is nothing wrong with this character, but I just think that she is an unnecessary addition. I have read three books (one novel and 10 short stories) with the duo Kusanagi-Yukawa, so losing this established duo is very unsettling. Readers who follow a series do so because they want to see their favourite detective again. The duo of detectives is such an established pattern in crime fiction, that changing the protagonists midway feels like a betrayal.

I found this addition so strange and out of place, that I checked online. On Wikipedia, it is said that the character of Kaoru was added for the television… Well, it makes sense. I am quoting Wikipedia:

ドラマ化にあたって「湯川のパートナーに女性のオリジナルキャラクターを使いたい」という製作者側の要望に東野が「先に自分がその人物を小説に登場させ、その人物の名前を使用する」という条件で快諾し、続編である「落下る」以降の原作にも登場。(source)

(「落下る」is the first short story in the book.)

I never watched the drama, so this is something that I was not aware of, but Kaoru appears right from episode 1 in the TV series (which is the first short story of the first book, and obviously she had not yet been created at the time). So for people who only watched the drama, the main duo has always been Kaoru-Yukawa… strange!

I doubt that Higashino would have created Kaoru if it weren’t for this request. This also explains why Kaoru has taken Kusanagi’s place instead of just working with him and Yukawa together as a trio.

I am okay with TV dramas changing things to please the audience or to make things more interesting. But here, the problem is not that the TV series departs from the books, but that the books change their line to fit with the series. I understand that Higashino wanted to create Kaoru himself, but I would have preferred to continue with Kusanagi in the books and let the TV series do whatever they wanted.

I am sure I will get used to the new duo in the end, but it was a bit of a shock in this book. I also hope that there won’t be too much of a sentimental relation between Yukawa and Kaoru because I am not usually a fan of romantic elements in detective fiction. We’ll see…

To talk more about the short stories themselves, I found them very different from the somewhat rigid pattern of the two first books where Kusanagi was the protagonist leading the investigation, and Yukawa was here to help solving the scientific part of the puzzle. In 『ガリレオの苦悩』, we find short stories were Yukawa is the protagonist and we learn more about him.

The last short story also had an interesting pattern, much similar to Christie’s the ABC murders.

Book review: 『容疑者Xの献身』 by Keigo Higashino

Introduction

Title: 『容疑者Xの献身』 (ようぎしゃ X の けんしん)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫

This is the third book and first novel of the Galileo series (the two previous titles were collections of short stories). It has been translated into English by Alexander O. Smith under the title The Devotion of Suspect X.

Review

I think that 『容疑者Xの献身』 , in the French translation by Sophie Rèfle, might be the first book of crime fiction I read by a Japanese author. I loved it at the time, and I enjoyed re-reading it in Japanese very much even though I already knew the story.

If you are reading this series in Japanese, I recommend to read the first two books before 『容疑者Xの献身』 or at least the second one, 『予知夢』. If you do, you will know how detective Kusanagi and his friend Yukawa are used to working together. In 『容疑者Xの献身』, their relationship and relation to the case change a little, and this is something you can appreciate more if you have read the previous books of the series.

I remember that when I read the French translation, I was mainly focused on the case and the characters directly involved in it, and I was not paying too much attention to who the detective was. When I read it in Japanese, it was the other way around. I found it more interesting to see how Kusanagi and Yukawa were investigating the case rather than the case itself. Generally speaking, I was more focused on the characters and I found the very end extremely impactful, something I do not recollect from my first reading of the book in translation.

The series’ identity seems to have evolved over time. In the first book, all the mysteries were linked to a scientific phenomenon and this was the reason why detective Kusanagi had to ask for his friend’s advice. In the second volume, rational thinking, deduction and logic had replaced the physics. In 『容疑者Xの献身』 again, we talk more about deduction and logic, but science apparently comes back in 『真夏の方程式』, the sixth book of the series.

『容疑者Xの献身』 is a book that I heartily recommend if you haven’t read it yet. It is not my absolute favourite by Higashino so far (we’ll have to look at the Kaga series for that), but definitely one of the best books of crime fiction that I have read in my life.

Book review: 『予知夢』 by Keigo Higashino

Introduction

Title: 『予知夢』 (よちむ)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野 圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫
270 pages

This collection of five short stories is the second book in the Galileo series. The short stories were first published between 1998 and 2000 in the magazine オール読物 (よみもの).

Review

This second book in the Galileo series is slightly different from the first one, 『探偵ガリレオ』. In my review of this first volume, I said that physics-related explanations were present in each story, and that they never really managed to trigger my interest nor to really convince me.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the stories in 『予知夢』 have taken a different direction. The scientific elements are dramatically reduced. Instead of presenting us with a problem that is apparently impossible and explain it with science, the short stories in 『予知夢』 present us with apparently supernatural phenomenons and explain them with logic, rationalism and deductions.

I found this book extremely addictive, I have read one short story a day, completely putting aside my other books. I love the theme of supernatural elements, and how it is explained in a rational way. I also start getting used to and liking the character of Yukawa, whom I did not particularly like in the first book. Overall, going through all these short stories allowed me to feel closer to the duo of protagonists.

If you want to read the Galileo series but are not particularly excited about physics and science, you could skip the first book and start the series with 『予知夢』 . In any case, 『予知夢』 is a book that I recommend, especially if you prefer reading short stories in Japanese instead of diving into a whole novel.

Book review: 『探偵ガリレオ』 by Keigo Higashino

Introduction

Title: 『探偵ガリレオ』 (たんていがりれお)
Author: Keigo HIGASHINO (東野 圭吾)
Published by 文春文庫
330 pages

This book is a collection of 5 short stories all initially published for the magazine オール讀物 between 1996 and 1998. This book is also the first installment in the Galileo series, but even though several books of the series are translated in English, this opening title has not been translated.

Review

Reading Keigo Higashino after quite a long time really feels good. I am always amazed at how good his short stories are. Even in a reduced number of pages you get all the thrill of a good crime novel.

The short stories of 『探偵ガリレオ』 all follow a similar pattern with detective Kusanagi investigating a murder case and asking for his friend’s advice, the physician Yukawa, whom Kusanagi’s chief calls Galileo.

All the stories and cases have a scientific element to them, usually related to how the murder was committed but not exclusively. This element explains the necessity for Kusanagi to seek Yukawa’s advice, and it also distinguishes the Galileo series from Higashino’s other books.

I was a little surprised by the systematic introduction of a scientific explanation in the short stories. The only books I have read from the Galileo series are The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint which are respectively the third and fifth books in the series. I may be remembering wrongly, but I don’t recall these two books as containing much, if any, physics. Either I am mistaken, or there has been a change in the series, from more to less scientific.

To be honest, I am not super interested in the technical or scientific explanations and physics has always been the subject I hated the most at school. Even though they are explained in easy terms (conveniently for the reader, Kusanagi is 理系オンチ), Yukawa’s scientific explanations often left me skeptical, clueless or bored.

The main particularity of the Galileo series (or at least, the first book) is the scientific element, so it looks like it does not make much sense for me to read the series. But the thing is that I loved this first book so much that I immediately purchased the second volume after finishing it. Even if you are not that into physics, the short stories remain extremely engrossing. They are worth reading for the investigation only, the scientific part being a plus for readers who like physics.

I still prefer the Kaga series over the Galileo series so far, but I found this first book very addictive!