Malice by Keigo Higashino
Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is 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, in 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.
Police Detective Kyochiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka’s best friend from years ago when they were both teachers. Kaga went on to join the police force while Nonoguchi became a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka. When Kaga suspects something is a little bit off with Nonoguchi’s statement, he investigates further, ultimately executing a search warrant on Nonoguchi’s apartment. There he finds evidence that shows that the two writers’ relationship was very different than they claimed…
Malice is my first foray into the dark realms of Japanese crime fiction. The premise appears, at least initially, to be pretty traditional, but further investigation uncovers something far subtler than that. This novel explores how relationships develop, how they can be manipulated and how they can be interpreted. Be warned, the interactions between characters may not always be what they seem.
Chapters alternate perspective between Detective Kaga and his chief suspect, Nonoguchi. When it comes to the crime genre the best examples tend to focus on just one element of the of the five key questions – Who?, What?, Why?, Where? and When? Malice concerns itself mostly with the why of events. The culprit responsible for the crime is reasonably quickly established. Finding out why they perpetrated the crime is where the story really excels. What events led to the seemingly senseless murder of Kunihiko Nidaka, and what is the motive the lay behind them?
Kaga initially comes across as quite detached but you soon realise that this isn’t the case at all. He is so deliberately focussed on unravelling the cobweb of events, he is determined not to miss a single detail. It is the finer points that are important to Kaga. Nothing is overlooked in his meticulous approach to problem solving and discovering the truth. Nonguchi however, reveals himself to be more than a worthy adversary and a game of cat and mouse begins to develop between the two. Each man is driven by the urge to retain the upper hand as the investigation continues to unfold.
When it comes to fiction that has been translated from a different language, there is always the concern that some of the subtle nuances of the text may be lost. I’m glad to say that this doesn’t appear to be the case in this instance. The narrative flows at a nice even pace and I never felt lost or confused by the interwoven plot strands.
The real highlight of Malice is getting the opportunity to watch a master detective pick apart the various deceptions laid before him. While doing so, Kaga also expertly puts together a picture detailing the real sequence of events as they took place. I enjoyed Keigo Higashino’s writing; there is a compelling quality to it that managed to keep me engrossed. There are certainly more than enough twists and turns in the plot to ensure events held my attention. Malice is deceptive beast, a keen eye for detail is definitely required. A word of advice, don’t blink or you’ll more than likely miss that all important vital clue.
Malice is published by Little, Brown Book Group and is available now.