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Book Review- Salvation Of A Saint by Keigo Hogashino

May 18, 2013

Salvation of a saintThe plot of the second novel by Hogashino revolves around the investigation of a ‘murder by poisoning’ case of Yoshitaka, a reasonably rich Japanese man. Married to the pretty woman that Ayane is, Yoshitaka is in an extramarital relationship with Hiromi, his wife’s pupil assistant at the patchwork training school run by her. The novel opens to the reader with a feel of the  apparent discord and unease that has crept in the fabric of Yoshitaka and Ayane’s married life. The Ikai family comes to the couple’s house for a party following which the wife leaves for her parents’ place in Sapporo for a break. After she leaves, Hiromi meets Yoshitaka and the following day he is found dead on the floor in his house. Kusinaga, the detective from Tokyo takes on from here and investigates the case with his assistants Utsumi and Kishitani. It is established that the man has been killed by poison in his coffee. The wife and the paramour both emerge as the suspects. Interestingly it so happens during the course of the investigation that Kusanagi, the detective gets enamoured by the beautiful wife and his observations are subsequently guided by this feeling he develops for the woman who is a suspect in the case. The remaining plot is further foray into the investigation during which arise some necessary and emotional and at times not so necessary and not so emotional situations before the murder mystery is cracked.

In my opinion, the strength of a novel or of a film lies in the ability of the writer or the director to conceal to the extent possible the design of the work from the reader and the viewer. What adds to the mediocrity of a work is its manifest attempt at explaining situations and justifing the occurence of events or continually relating one event with the other so that reading the novel becomes a major exercise in nothing else but connecting the dots. In the process, the reader loses the essence of the larger aesthetic that the author has in mind. I found Salvation of a Saint to be precisely such a case. The author says almost everything through his characters. This approach frames the characters very well as we get to know who they are and their personalities stay with us. At the same time this approach makes reading the novel a mechanical exercise if one may call it that. A lot of ink is spent on the ‘thinking aloud’ characters. Consequently the author fails in painting the canvas where his characters stand as wonderfully drawn sketches. Undoubtedly the novel has a good plot and makes for an interesting reading. There is much that goes missing in the detailing of things not so necessary, of dialogues not so pertinent.

Lastly, Salvation of a Saint is a translated piece and hence a comment on its language might end up being unfair. Yet it may be pointed out that it makes for an ordinary reading of what could have been a brilliant thriller. Despite these shortcomings, Salvation of a Saint does moderately succeed in keeping the reader glued till the end. It is in my opinion a sincere attempt at targeting a readership that has predetermined ideas of what a ‘murder mystery novel’ should be and hence fails to break new ground.


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20 Comments leave one →
  1. May 21, 2013 7:54 pm

    The review written by you is a brilliant one.

    • May 22, 2013 9:23 am

      Thanks MK!!

      Glad you liked it!

  2. May 22, 2013 12:36 pm

    sounds like an interesting story!

    • May 22, 2013 2:39 pm

      it is an interesting story. Just the way it is told does not really let it be a story. It becomes a document of sorts I felt!

  3. May 22, 2013 5:38 pm

    A good review Amit.

    • May 23, 2013 12:18 am

      Thanks Dilip!

  4. May 22, 2013 9:15 pm

    Nice review….. Looks like an interesting read……

    • May 23, 2013 12:18 am

      It is in a way…give it a try Debopam sometime and do let me know what you think of it!

  5. May 24, 2013 8:34 pm

    You appear to have taken a bleak view of Mr. Hogashino’s murder mystery. In my opinion, crime novels are always a dicey proposition.

    • May 25, 2013 12:21 pm

      I do realise that Uma. There are nevertheless crime novels which are elegant and have a charm. There are others like this one which are not as charming and elegant. Where Hogashino seems to miss the plot is a bland tour across the mindscapes of the characters. For instance, the novel is set in an urban center in Japan. Apart from the names of a few roads and avenues the novel has little to offer the reader in terms of a feeling of being in Japan. Something like a bollywood song like “Saayonara Saayonaara” does it slightly better! Oh that reminds me of telling you about this WONDERFUL book that I highly recommend. I am sure you will find it interesting. It is called “Jheeni Jheeni Beeni Chadariya” by Abdul Bismillah. It is such a beautiful picture of the Ansari community in Benaras. I loved every bit of it!! PLEASE do read it if you havent already!

      Thanks for the comment !

  6. May 28, 2013 12:12 am

    Hi!! I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award… Check my blog for more details.. :)

  7. May 29, 2013 7:25 pm

    hello, PC… thanks for coming over and reading. much appreciated… :) am waiting for your post re: singing and listening, hehe. regards and cheers! :) ~san

  8. May 30, 2013 9:26 am

    Seems interesting. Let me find out a copy

    • May 30, 2013 12:39 pm

      let me know what you feel!

  9. June 3, 2013 2:34 am

    Thanks for sharing! True salvation is of the Lord.

  10. June 10, 2013 11:55 am

    are you a saint or what! less than a post in a month!!!! what an achievement!

  11. July 6, 2013 12:14 pm

    jai ho amit baba!

  12. WordsFallFromMyEyes permalink
    July 13, 2013 3:13 am

    This is a quality review. You’ve covered it well. Interesting book, indeed. Well done.

  13. July 27, 2013 1:39 am

    Well described, enjoyable post. Wondering why you need “to the reader..” I’d just go with “..novel opens with…”

    The novel opens to the reader with a feel


  14. October 31, 2013 1:50 pm

    Thanks. I’ve got to do a detective thing. This really helped.

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