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  • Writer's pictureAnanya Ak

Malice: A spine-tingling thriller

The book, Malice, resting against a stack of spiral-bound books (labelled "Manuscripts: relevant?"). To the right is a brown-and-white speckled cat with a cross on it, labelled "dead. Irrelevant". Behind and to the right is a blurred CD, labelled "THE videotape". To the left is a golden circle, labelled "A brass paperweight: the murder weapon".

Malice (n): the desire to harm someone; ill will

What is malice, really? Hatred? Love turned sour? Just plain dislike?

Theoretically, I knew the meaning, but I didn’t truly understand it until I read this spine-chilling book.

A famous author, Kunihiko Hidaka is found brutally murdered in his locked office within his locked home, by his pretty young wife and his best friend. These witnesses are also the only two suspects in this case, and they have rock-solid alibis. But do they, really?

As police detective Kyochiro Kaga investigates the crime, he suspects that one of the two suspects is hiding something. As he digs deeper into the evidence and the renowned author’s past, he uncovers information that shocks him…

Which of the suspects is guilty of malice against Hidaka? Or is it Hidaka himself who’s malicious? As the truth gradually unravels, Kaga (and the reader) might be surprised by what they find.

In the beginning, I was a little disappointed, to be honest. It started out like a conventional locked-room mystery, completely unlike Higashino’s usual “we-already-know-the-killer” style: a murder, killer unknown…little hints for the police to find the killer…

Pretty straightforward.

What’s more, the killer was obvious from the start. Not just to me but to the detective as well! What kind of a whodunnit makes the “who” evident to everyone involved?

If I hadn’t known Higashino’s unique style, I would probably have DNFed the book right there.

But he didn’t disappoint, of course.

What seemed straightforward in the beginning turned out not so obvious after all.

At every turn, just when you think you know everything, a twist takes you by surprise and leaves you reeling. Such is the magic this genius author weaves.

As a lover of shocking thrillers, this one was uniquely satisfying because it left me flabbergasted, not just at the ending, but at every turn leading to that final, spine-tingling climax.

This book surprised me – not just because it was awesome, but because it was unlike the other two books I’ve read by this author. It had more depth, more layers, more psychological meaning than his other works that I’ve read, making it my favourite Higashino book till date.

I will say, though, dear reader, that you must have patience. Higashino lulls you into a sense of arrogant complacence that will make you almost angry at him for believing you wouldn’t guess such obvious clues. Cruise through that feeling until he throws you for a loop and by the end of the book, you’ll wonder why you ever doubted such a genius.

(Yes, I’m a Higashino stan. Yes, I’ll insist that every reader I know read Malice. No two thoughts about it!)

(For author bio, visit my post about Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X)

Translator Bio

A headshot of the translator, Alexander O. Smith, wearing a blue tshirt and black jacket, against a blurred brownish background.
The translator

Born in Vermont, USA, Alexander Smith first gained an interest in Japanese when he attended an exchange programme in northern China. He proceeded to obtain a BA in Japanese from Dartmouth College and later, a MA in Classical Japanese Literature from Harvard. His first work in translation was as a subtitler for Japanese TV dramas.

In 2002, Smith founded a freelance translation and localisation company, Kajiya Productions with Joseph Reeder. As part of the company and in collaboration with other firms, he translated several video games. It was only in 2011 that he co-founded Bento Books, a book translation and publishing company and started translating novels. In addition to translation, he has composed English lyrics for several vocal tracks of Japanese video games and band music.

Smith goes to great lengths to preserve the experience of the original text as much as possible. For example, in The Devotion of Suspect X, he used more elevated and formal language to mirror Higashino’s “sparse, methodical tone of Japanese”.


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