Saturday, December 4, 2010


"Even if it is possible in theory, it is impossible in practice"
"The Saint's Salvation")

While I absolutely love 2005's Yougisha X no Kenshin ("The Devotion of Suspect X"), I wasn't really impressed with 2008's Galileo no Kunou ("The Agony of Galileo"). I do still keep my eyes on the Tantei Galileo ("Detective Galileo") series however and with a new Galileo novel finishing its serialization this year (Manatsu no Houteishiki; "A Midsummer's Equation"), I thought it was time to finally catch up with the series. Luckily, I was just one book behind.

So it was time for Seijo no Kyuusai ("The Saint's Salvation"), released simultaneously with Galileo no Kunou. Seijo no Kyuusai is the second novel-length entry in the Tantei Galileo series and as such, I wasn't sure what to think about the book when I picked it up. Should I expect a fine work again, because the previous book was good? Or is the bar set by Yougisha X no Kenshin too high? Yougisha X no Kenshin was a big hit in Japan and stirred up discussions on what a detective novel is and as far as I knew, Seijo no Kyuusai didn't stir up anything.

Seijo no Kyuusai begins when Mashita Yoshitaka, CEO of an IT firm, tells his wife Ayane, a famous patchwork artist, he wants to divorce her. It's been a year since their marriage, but there are no signs of her getting pregnant and that is the only reason he got married in the first place. No kids, no marriage. As they agreed to this before their marriage, Ayane accepts. Before their divorce, Ayane goes to Hokkaidou, back home to her parents to spend a weekend there. It is during her weekend away that Yoshitaka dies due to arsenic poisoning. The most likely person to have commited the murder is of course Ayane, but how was she able to poison her husband in Tokyo all the way from Hokkaidou?

Seijo no Kyuusai is a pretty decent novel. It's an orthodox detective, fairly rare among Higashino Keigo's work, but it lacks the impact of Yougisha X no Kenshin. Like all of the Tantei Galileo stories, this is a howdunnit and like the previous novel-length story, this book does not feature the laser-guided-death-trap methods of killing from the short stories. The exact sciences still set Yukuwa, nicnamed Galileo, on the right track (keyword for this novel: imaginary numbers), but the sciences are like thematic decoration; no actual knowledge of them is needed to solve this mystery. The solution? A simple, yet effective one. If Higashino tries, he is perfectly able to write normal detective novels.

My only problem with the book is the length, as the story is rather drawn out. Which ties in with Higashino's pet peeve themes: women, love and the criminal mind. Many pages of the story are used to flesh out the rather small cast, digging in their psyche like in Uso wo mou hitotsu dake. And by letting police detective Kusanagi fall in love with the suspect, Higashino creates a dual story of Kusanagi trying to prove Ayane innocent, while his (female) junior Utsumi, with the help of Galileo, try to prove her guilt. While the story starts with the actions of Yoshitaka and end with Galileo's deduction, both males, most of the story is driven by the women in this story. As Sugie Matsukoi (2009) posed in an article on Higashino's work "Women are terrifying" is the theme in Higashino Keigo's work. I think gender in Japanese detective novels has been researched before (c.f. Seaman, Amanda (2004). Bodies of Evidence - Women, Society, and Detective Fiction in 1990s Japan. Hawai'i: University of Hawai'i Press), but maybe Higashino Keigo's work might be interesting too.

While not a masterpiece by any means, I enjoyed the book and I hope the third novel in the Tantei Galileo series, Manatsu no Houteishiki will be released soon in book form soon. 

Original Japanese title(s): 東野圭吾 『聖女の救済』

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