How do you keep a reader interested in a suspense novel with a simple plot and an evident culprit? You create an exceptionally interesting tale of human malice. How do you do that? Read this book and you will have your answer. Malice is the English translation of the Japanese novel Akui published in 1996. Like most of his other books, writer Keigo Higashino does not follow the traditional path of ‘whodunnit’ in this mystery novel. Instead, he starts the novel with the murder and clearly reveals ‘whodunnit’. What remains to be determined is the reason behind the murder. This book kept me guessing until the very end and I never came close to the actual motive.
Malice by Keigo Higashino, Alexander O. Smith (Translator)
Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his home on the night before he’s planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver. His body is found in his office, a locked room, within his locked house, by his wife and his best friend, both of whom have rock solid alibis. Or so it seems.
At the crime scene, Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka’s best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same public school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Nonoguchi eventually left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka.
As Kaga investigates, he eventually uncovers evidence that indicates that the two writers’ relationship was very different that they claimed, that they were anything but best friends. But the question before Kaga isn’t necessarily who, or how, but why. In a brilliantly realized tale of cat and mouse, the detective and the killer battle over the truth of the past and how events that led to the murder really unfolded. And if Kaga isn’t able to uncover and prove why the murder was committed, then the truth may never come out.
(Description from Goodreads.com)
Points I Liked About Malice
Pace: In this book, everything is evident before the police but Detective Kaga finds something amiss in the whole story which is why he works toward establishing the actual reason behind the murder. The murderer confesses to the crime but Detective Kaga is not convinced with it. So, he keeps going back and forth on his theories trying to understand what really prompted the murderer to kill. Even though the detective forms several theories and nullifies them, the book still is fast paced and does not decline in intrigue. I kept me hooked with its plots twists and turns. Just when I thought I knew what motivated the murderer, everything spun out of control and I was confronted with a beyond belief climax. I admire Keigo Higashino’s writing that kept me involved with the story till the very end.
Points I Did Not Like About Malice
Climax: I may be new to the thriller genre but I know what I want from a suspense novel and if I do not get that then I feel highly disappointed. I had a similar problem with Higashino’s Salvation of a Saint. I appreciate the way Detective Kaga went about solving the murder mystery but I was not fully convinced by his explanation of how he cracked the case. I applaud the detective’s observation skills but I felt that the murderers’ motive lacked depth. To carry out such a detailed plan seemed unconvincing given the primary motive. Had the reason behind the murder been more convoluted, I would have been convinced of the murderer’s efforts. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the most intense point, the motive was somewhere between 5 and 6 while the efforts put in to execute such a master plan was beyond 10. So, you get my point? For me, the reason and the execution did not match in intensity. Though I was shocked by the final revelation, it felt disappointed in retrospect.
Final View: I would recommend this book only for Higashino’s story building and character depth. Warning: the murderer is more twisted than you can imagine.
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