Malice – Keigo Higashino
January 13, 2021 § 2 Comments
First published in Japanese in 1996
Translated into English by Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander in 2014
I’ve been having a hard time finding my focus and inner calm to do much reading in the past month or so. That’s more or less the story of 2020, to be honest, for most of the year at least.
So to get myself started on the right foot, I knew I had to find a book that was by an author I was familiar with, whose style I knew I would be able to grasp and follow quickly. And for that, I chose Keigo Higashino’s Malice. I’ve read two of his books in the past year, and his writing style was one that made for easy reading. That, and mystery/crime/thrillers are always page turners for me.
Malice is written from two points of view, both in the first person, both as notes or accounts of what events have occurred. In the first chapter, Osamu Nonoguchi takes us back to the day the incident took place, though he doesn’t immediately tell us what that incident is. He introduces us to his friend, Kunihiko Hidaka, who he visits at his home for the last time before Hidaka moves to Canada. He tells us about a stranger he meets in Hidaka’s house, even when Hidaka’s not home. He then discovers (as do we) that this stranger is a neighbour whose cat has recently died. He shares with us the shock he felt when he learns that Hidaka was actually guilty of poisoning the cat himself.
Then 20 pages in, we finally know what that incident was. Hidaka was found murdered in a locked room in his locked house.
What follows is the classic cat-and-mouse story, where Detective Kyoichiro Kaga tries to figure out exactly what had happened that day, and how Nonoguchi, who is the murderer in his mind, managed to get himself an alibi.
There is, of course, a twist in the middle of the book, which to me is just classic Higashino. Publishers Weekly called this book “fiendishly clever”, which I agree to wholeheartedly. There was this feeling that I constantly got as I was reading the book, like there was something just at the corner of my eye that I can’t really see, but if I turn to look at it proper, it disappears. Yet its existence cannot be denied. And when Higashino shines a light at the end of the book to what the truth of the incident really is, that feeling was immediately rewarded.
I’m glad I decided on this book to start the year.