***MILD SPOILERS AHEAD***
So, I am on a binge reading spree of books by Keigo Higashino. After having read Newcomer and then Salvation of a Saint, he really caught my fancy and I couldn’t stop splurging on his other books and reading them all through the day and night and waking up like a zombie. I think I would be one of those few people who are sleep deprived in lockdown. Malice by Keigo Higashino is my 3rd book by the author and I am loving it. With each book of his that I’ve read, I am finding him more and more alluring and a master mystery weaver (whodunit, whydunnit, howdunnit) This story follows the murder of a bestselling author and although the murderer is revealed within a few chapters, the motive behind the murder is what makes up the rest of the story.
Kunihiko Hidaka is found murdered in his locked office room in his upscale standalone house by his second wife Rie and his friend Osamu Nonoguchi just a day before he was to move to Vancouver. Strangled by a telephone cord after a blunt blow on his head, Hidaka is dead on the spot. Rie and Osamu both come under suspicion but they present alibis for the time which is the supposed time of the murder. While Rie is brushed off, Osamu comes under Detective Kaga’s scanner. Kaga and Osamu apparently worked together for a while as teachers in the same school before going their separate ways. Kaga’s skill and keen eye zeroes in on Osamu being the murderer to which he confesses and also gives a written confession. But why does Kaga feel that not everything that meets the eye is true? Osamu’s account keeps changing and is unreliable. It utterly confuses Kaga. While Osamu shuts himself up and is not cooperating to give any further details than he already did, Kaga takes his own route to investigate and find the truth behind the murder, the WHY. This investigation takes him way back into the murdered and the murderer’s past, back to when they were in primary school and what Kaga uncovers is shockingly simple and disturbing at the same time.
Brilliantly precise and engaging, Malice is a masterpiece, one which keeps the interest alive even after revealing the who behind the murder. Although the illusion one gets while reading is that of a psychological thriller, lies, and conceit forming the basic structure, it definitely is not. It is more of tracking, back-tracking, and re-tracking the facts all the while giving the reader several perspectives and adding depth to an otherwise boring case. Turning around crime and linking it to the past in a manner one couldn’t imagine, no one could have done it in a better way than Higashino. Twisting a part-of-the-life thing and making it into a story that travels beyond my brain capacity, oh boy, Higashino is a new favorite. Having read a couple of his novels, I can say that his works are to the point, no beating around the bush to make the novel lengthy and no gore to create a gruesome murder mystery. Simple suspense and logical reasonings are his strengths, his stories test the power of deduction of his detectives and his readers alike. His detectives, of course, win, but for me, I never been able to guess the climax. The main characters in the story here are built beautifully, especially Hidaka and Nonoguchi, the victim and the murderer, their psyche explored in terms of their relationship with each other and the people common to them. Their relationship is complex, there is love, there is hate, but who is free of malice, is what the story is about. Next to have as much space as these two is Detective Kaga though I can’t say much about his character. Others form the support that keeps the story interesting and varied. However, what I don’t get is the intuition that the detectives of the story keep getting about something being off when there nothing seems to be, I know it’s a work of fiction but some reality can be expected. The constant unease that Kaga feels about the case despite the confession seems a little too far fetched to me, but hey, I am not complaining. Some liberties are necessary for the creative juices to flow freely. Also, this was the first book that I found progressing at a good speed. Unlike the other 2 which I read, Malice had some or the other development to offer every few pages and I liked it.
The novel Malice is a result of an upbringing gone wrong, a troubled childhood, and a weak will. The reason is as simple as it can get, a bad word, an unwatched grudge, and an unforgivable crime. The manner in which the author conveys the mystery is extremely lucid, but the impact is so profound, it took me a few days to realize how important it is to have someone in life to keep you grounded and on the right path. From this book, I have definitely learned how not to parent, and how to pave the way for my daughter who I hope sees the world empathetically.