Twofer Review: The Devotion of Suspect X + Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

Twofer Review: The Devotion of Suspect X + Salvation of a Saint by Keigo Higashino

The Devotion of Suspect X

The Devotion of Suspect X

I confess my addiction to books shrouded in mystery and intrigue. I trace  the seeds of said obsession to my early years when I would hide under my quilt with a flashlight to continue reading without parental interference.

To hell with sleep when there’s a good mystery unfolding before me.

I admit I can be lax when it comes to quality. Just give me a thriller or mystery and I’m happy as long as there’s some suspense and a bit of fuel for the imagination—and a really, really good one (i.e., Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series) is a real treasure.

Sarah received a review copy of one of Keigo Higashino’s books translated from Japanese into English a few weeks ago (Salvation of a Saint, out in October). Knowing my passion for the genre, she passed it to me to read. Thank you, Sarah! This one was a keeper, which led me to purchase another Higashino book, The Devotion of Suspect X.

Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint both had me beguiled from the first sentences to the final pages.

Not only beguiled, but unable to develop my theory or suspect for the murders that occur in both novels. And given that I am very adept at solving mysteries, thanks to my study of all of the Nancy Drew canon, this is unusual.

The writing style’s like none other I’ve read. It’s uniqueness feels something like reading a play without stage directions. You don’t get into the characters’ minds. You only see what a detective would: actions and words. Higashino’s work relies on plot, character and dialogue, with the reader caught in a snare along with the detective on the case.

Higashino gives his readers a gift, Detective Kusanagi, who ferrets out the facts with intelligence and steadfast diligence.

I imagined myself putting on a Sherlock Holmes cloak and hat and moving right along with the Kusanagi while carrying a magnifying glass in hand. Kusanagi isn’t in this by himself. This Tokyo genius keeps good company. When clues aren’t lining up or making sense, he turns to his equally brilliant friend, Dr. Manabu Yukawa, aka Detective Galileo, an old college buddy.

In the first book, The Devotion of Suspect X, these two masters of intellect are pitted against a formidable foe, Ishigami, whose devotion to Yasuko, the former wife of the murder victim, equals his off-the-chart IQ.

Togashi, the father of Yasuko’s daughter, has been found murdered, strangled by an electrical cord. Suspense, like a dark circle tightens, moves closer to Yasuko as a star suspect. The plot’s twists and turns zigzag at a dizzying speed while Detective Kusanagi and Dr. Yukawa delve into the puzzle surrounding the murder and the even more profoundly complex conundrum of what a lonely man will do in the name of love. 

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Salvation of a Saint again brings together Detectives Kusanagi and Galileo aka Dr. Yukawa while they delve into the poisoning death of a man about to leave his marriage. The wife is infertile, so a divorce must follow, apparently-the wife had agreed at the time of their marriage that if no children were produced within a year of the marriage, then dissolution of the marriage would occur immediately. 

Death, the murder victim’s adultery and Kusanagi’s fascination with Utsumi all lead the old friends into an agreement to disagree as to who committed the deadly crime and how it could have occurred without others dying as well.

Diabolical planning colliding against complex characterization culminates in a denouement that, while not plausible, was perfection in its execution and inception.

The guilty one’s characterization and experience played with my sympathies and uniquely created a sense justification for an otherwise unsympathetic action.

The mastery of Higashino’s writing lies in his cerebral approach. During a discussion of the crime, Kusanagi tells Yukawa of paleontology, of the knowledge of the past trapped within fragments of dirt easily overlooked.

…the dirt they discarded as ‘useless’ turned out to be extremely important… You may have heard me mention the process of elimination, by which we invalidate one hypothesis at a time, eliminating all the possibilities until we’re left with a single truth.

Searching for the single truth Kusanagi says can be dangerous.

Sometimes, when we’re too eager to get those bones, we end up missing the point.

Now, there’s some truth to snap off, examine and consider. Searching for the right answer without a predetermined notion of what will be found doesn’t come easy.

Nor, do the answers to Kusanagi’s relentless questions.

The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint are two of the best mystery reads I’ve come across in a long, long time.

Higashino’s currently the top-selling author in Japan and enjoys massive popularity across Asia. He’s won numerous awards and is considered one of the today’s finest modern mystery/crime authors. My only criticism is that more of his books have not been translated into English. He’s so good, I wish I’d learned to read Japanese! It may be a bit late for that, but I can only dream. 

After reading his work, I sat back closed my eyes and thought of what makes me love any author’s work, especially Higashino’s.  Virginia Woolf’s comment on the subject came to mind. It captures the essence of the great author’s work.

The art of writing has for backbone some fierce attachment to an idea.

The Devotion of Suspect X is out now; Salvation of a Saint releases in the U.S. on October 2, 2012.

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Disclosure: A review copy of Salvation of a Saint was provided by the Macmillan/Minotaur.

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