Thursday, March 25, 2021

Malice: Keigo Higashino

Description from the book cover:

Acclaimed bestselling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is found 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, 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.

At the crime scene, Police Detective Kyoichiro Kaga recognizes Hidaka's best friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same public school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Nonoguchi eventually left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka.

This story is told in first person by two different characters. One is the policeman investigating the murder and the other is a suspect, Osamu Nonoguchi, a friend of the victim. 

I liked the way the story was written; the structure is unusual. The first six chapters alternate between the suspect's written account of his activities (and thoughts) and Detective Kaga's accounts of the investigation. There is a chapter of interviews from people who knew Hidaka and Nonoguchi when they were middle school students. Then the last two chapters are Detective Kaga's accounts as he wraps up the investigation. 

Malice is not a thriller, but more of a character study. The investigation takes Detective Kaga back to the school days of the victim and his friend. The novel explores the how and why of the murder less than who did it. I like this kind of story and it was a very satisfying read. 

My husband read this book shortly after it was published in the US in 2014. Here is his review at Goodreads:

Malice is another meticulously plotted mystery/procedural from Keigo Higashino, author of incredibly clever The Devotion of Suspect X. This relatively brief book doesn’t waste time in getting the plot going (the murder on which everything hinges happens almost immediately) and also efficiently introduces the characters (of which there are really only five: police detective Kaga, writer friends Hidaka and Nonoguchi, and Hidaka’s two wives (one is deceased). Each first person section is an interview or account or interrogation or confession and at times it can be a bit confusing. The book has virtually no action with clever detective Kaga assembling and reassembling motives and alibis in an effort to ascertain the why of the crime. Well done.


In Japan, ten novels featuring Detective Kyoichiro Kaga have been published. This is the 4th book in the series but only the first book translated to English. The eighth book in the series, Newcomer, has also been translated into English. 

This was the second book I read for the Japanese Literature Challenge.


Publisher:   Minotaur Books, 2014 (orig. pub. 1996)
Translator:  Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander
Length:       276 pages
Format:       Hardcover
Series:        Kyoichiro Kaga, #4
Setting:       Japan
Genre:        Police Procedural
Source:       Borrowed from my husband.


Bill Selnes said...

TracyK: I am attracted to read it just by the cover. It does sound interesting.

TracyK said...

I love that cover, Bill. I have enjoyed all of the books by Higashino that I have read, but this one is my favorite so far. The alternating chapters, sort of like long journal entries, were the perfect structure. And both the policeman and the suspect were equally interesting. It kept me guessing.

Margot Kinberg said...

This does sound appealing, Tracy. Character studies can be absolutely fascinating as stories, and these sound like interesting characters. I give Higashino credit, too, for working this story with so few characters. That takes skill. Oh, and I agree about the cover.

CLM said...

I assume the cover shows cherry blossoms? Does it take place in the spring? My last foray into Japanese fiction (Kokoro) was painful but I am sure I would prefer a mystery (plus, clever to have it vetted by your husband!).

In the paper I am working on for grad school which is about empowerment through sports I came across an article about YA sports fiction (which was odd but I needed 20) and discussed the need for the fictional characters to experience self-actualization, whereas American protagonists achieve that through winning. I am oversimplifying but it was sufficiently interesting that I kept it, although my professor may think it is irrelevant.

TracyK said...

Constance, Yes the cover is cherry blossoms and the story starts on April 16th. A cherry tree does feature in the story, but I would not have cared, I just love the cover. My husband is very into Japanese mystery fiction, and thus I have sampled a lot of his books and the authors he has tried.

Your grad school paper sounds interesting but I was never interested in sports, so I did not think about that element of it.

TracyK said...

Margot, I think you and I both like good characterizations in mystery fiction. The story is complex but with fewer characters it is easier to follow.

Sam Sattler said...

This really sounds good. I'm intrigued by Japan's culture, and I've found that I learn more from reading Japanese fiction than nonfiction books about the culture and people. I know that's risky, and that it leads to distortions, etc., but it just seems to stick with me more than then the nonfiction, generally. What I'd love to find are some good Japanese memoirs, but so far not much luck there.

TracyK said...

Sam, I agree that fiction of a country reveals a lot about the people and culture. In Japanese fiction I often can't tell much about the physical setting, but you can definitely see differences in the way people interact. Memoirs would be interesting.

Aidan @ Mysteries Ahoy! said...

I remember particularly enjoying this one too - it's less flashy than The Devotion of Suspect X but I love its discussion of literature and the creative process.

TracyK said...

Aidan, I just saw your review of Newcomer, and now I want to read that one too. It looks like my husband has a copy of that but hasn't read it yet. I like how each of his books that I have read is different.

IzaBzh said...

I read The devotion of suspect X and have been wanting to explore more of his writings ever since :)

Lark said...

I like when authors find interesting and unusual ways to tell their stories. I think I'd really like this one. :)

TracyK said...

Iza, I especially enjoyed The Devotion of Suspect X because it is an inverted mystery. I have enjoyed the four books by Higashina that I have read. Since you enjoyed Suspect X, I think you would like the others. But they are all different in structure.

TracyK said...

I think you would too, Lark. Obviously every book cannot be different, but I always get excited when I get into a book and see that it has a special format or structure.

Susan said...

This sounds like a good one, although I don't know about starting a series in the middle. I might have to wait until all the books have been translated into English.

TracyK said...

I would love it if they translated more of this series into English, Susan. But I don't have high hopes for that. It used to bother me that Scandinavian series out of order but it is more usual for those to eventually all get translated.

col2910 said...

One to add to the list, not that I'm running out of books!

TracyK said...

You will never run out of books, Col, but at this one is closer to your reading than a good bit of what I read.