Salvation of a Saint
Translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312600686, $24.99, www.minotaurbooks.com
What's more effective in solving a crime: a detective's intuition and police skills, or the scientific method? This theme seems to be a recurring one in the author's approach to crime fiction. In "The Devotion of Suspect X," Mr. Higashino's last book, a mathematician was pitted against physics professor Yukawa, also dubbed "Detective Galileo," while an actual detective, Kusanagi, plied his trade using his intuition and other skills. In the present mystery, they repeat this dance in trying to solve what at first appears to be a perfect murder.
The crime revolves around the death of a CEO by poisoning, and the investigation turns up no evidence of the source of the substance. It is quickly determined that this was not a case of suicide. The wife, usually a prime suspect, was thousands of miles away, and the paramour is also cleared. A junior detective, Kaoru Utsuni, stubbornly pursues the case, finally turning to the professor when neither she nor Kusanagi make any progress in solving the murder. And then the fun begins: logic vs. gut feeling.
The author demonstrates a wonderful ability to wrap a puzzle within an enigma, supplying twist after twist to keep the pages turning, raising the tension as the investigation progresses. This is one clever plot, and the novel is highly recommended.
The Trinity Game
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612183183, $14.95, www.amazon.com
This novel is quite a departure from the author's previous books featuring a Chicago PI. It asks the reader to suspend disbelief and accept all kinds of conspiracies, while the protagonist, Daniel Byrne, a Roman Catholic priest working out of the Vatican charged with authenticating or disproving "miracles," encounters one involving his own uncle, Timothy Trinity.
Dan's mother died in childbirth, and his father committed suicide shortly afterward, orphaning the boy. Trinity took the child in and raised him, while plying his talent as an itinerant preacher on a Southern circuit. He is a great con artist, and eventually Dan became disillusioned, leaving his uncle, later becoming a priest. Decades later, Trinity suddenly develops the ability to accurately predict the future, from natural disasters to sports events, resulting in the Church and the mob wanting to discredit him, one as a false messiah, the other because it is costing profits.
So much for the beginnings of the plot, which goes on in various offshoots as Dan becomes more involved with his uncle and tries to protect him against threats, the FBI and other assorted entities.It becomes overly complicated and the reader is exposed to TMI (Too Much Information). There are exciting developments and the writing is well-developed, but the book probably could have benefitted from some useful pruning, especially to shorten its length.
[It should perhaps be mentioned that the book is also issued in hardcover, $24.95, 9781612183503, and as an e-book, $7.99, #B006YZ2DFU]
80 Broad St., NY, NY 10005
9781605983790, $25.00, www.pegasusbooks.us
Once the reader gets past and accepts the initial premise of this novel, that there is an almost universal conspiracy to boost children's learning power by declaring them victims of ADD or ADHD and prescribing Ritalin or similar drugs, then it becomes a heart-warming story. Sean Benn, a single father (the result of his wife's abandoning him and their young son, Toby), is pressured to dose the boy, against his better judgment, after having refused for quite some time.
It should be noted that Toby's best friend had gone into a coma and died. The school told everyone it was the result of a peanut allergy. Shortly afterward, Toby fell during PT, suffering from an arrhythmia, and ended up in the hospital, comatose. From that point the plot takes off in dramatic fashion.
Certainly the novel's raison d'etre is a significant topic. When over-medication is routinely used to force students to accelerate their ability to learn, something is wrong. So exposure is warranted. But to raise the possibility that this technique is so widespread across the country,aided and abetted by pharmaceutical companies, while worrisome, is kind of hard to believe. But maybe such exaggeration is needed to make the point. And perhaps "worrisome" is required as well. Written with a smooth hand and tightly plotted, the book is recommended.
Nights of Awe
Harri Nykanen, Translated by Kristian London
Bitter Lemon Press
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 W. 108th St., NY, NY 10025
9781904738923, $14.95, www.bitterlemonpress.com
There are two Jewish cops in all of Helsinki. One of them, Ari Kafka, a lieutenant in the Violent Crime Unit of the Helsinki police, who makes his debut in this novel, identifies himself as a policeman first, then a Finn, and lastly a Jew. He catches a weird case involving the murder of two Arabs, to begin with, followed by several others.
It is not known whether these deaths are related, although they appear to be, or are the result of a drug bust gone bad, gang warfare or even a terrorist plot, when it is learned that the Israeli foreign minister plans a two-day visit during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Of course, this makes the investigation more difficult, as the Finnish Security Police and Israel's Mossad enter the picture. Complicating Ari's efforts is...