Author: Keigo Higashino
Translator: Alexander O. Smith
The crux of the story is, “Some men just want to watch the word burn.”
What makes us do things reprehensible; murder, blackmail, bullying, physical harm, what evil drives people down this path? Keigo Higasino’s novel, translated in English by Alexander O smith, gives a name to that evil, Malice, plain old Malice.
Malice is unlike any murder mystery I have read before. The main focus of the novel is not on the murder but the motive as police detective Kyochiro Kaga tries to uncover the true motive behind the murder.
Acclaimed novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found murdered in his house on the night before he was planning to leave Japan and relocate to Vancouver with his second wife. 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. The plot seems quite interesting, but the novel is unlike other murder mysteries where the whole story is devoted to finding the murderer revealing the suspense only at the very end. Finding who commit the murder of Kunihiko Hidaka is only but a small part of the story.
The novel can be divided into three parts:
The murder: The beginning of the novel till the time the murder takes place. The first few pages are quite interesting and fast paced.
The murder to the murderer: Kaga investigates the murder. This part of the novel highlights diligent detective work. It happens right in the middle of the novel which makes one wonder, what the next half of the novel is going to be about. But everything you knew so far is about to be put into question.
The motive: The second half of the novel takes Kaga down the narrow lanes of history, as the motive of the present murder lies in the past.
The narration is very simple. The novel does not dance around any single piece of evidence. Everything is like a puzzle, you solve one and you move to the next, only to find everything staged and manipulated in the first place. This is the only novel in the Kaga series that has been translated in English, but still can be picked as a standalone novel. It gives a glimpse into the detective’s own history and touches social issues like bullying.
Overall, malice is a very easy, light and interesting read. A different take on the murder from the motive perspective makes it a good read.