Malice: Keigo Higashino

“It comes down to character.”

Police procedurals are not my favourite type of crime book; I’ve said that many times, but then I read the Japanese crime novel, Malice from Keigo Higashino with contains a plot that managed to do something entirely different from the typical procedural. Malice, with its emphasis not on the perpetrator (we know who committed the crime around the first third of the novel,) but on the psychology of motive is a fascinating read as the detective in charge of the case refuses to take the case’s solution at face value.

So here’s the plot: best-selling novelist Kunihiko Hidaka is murdered in his home the night before he leaves for Vancouver with his wife of one month, Rie. Everything was packed and ready for the move, but Hidaka, alone at the house, was working on a serialized novel. Hidaka was found dead inside his locked office inside his locked house. Yet someone entered the home, bashed Hidaka over the head with a paperweight and then strangled him with a telephone cord. Both Hidaka’s wife and his best friend, a writer of children’s stories, Osamu Nonoguchi have alibis for the time of Hidaka’s death. On the day of Hidaka’s murder, he was visited by a young woman, Miyako Fujio, who was trying to persuade Hidaka to rewrite his novel, Forbidden Hunting Grounds as it portrayed the life of her brother (stabbed by a prostitute).  Police Detective Kyoichiro Kaga begins his investigations. ….

malice

Malice is told, mainly, through the two voices of Osamu and Detective Kaga. The two men were teachers at the same school together, briefly, but Kaga gave up teaching to become a police detective while Osamu eventually became a full time writer. Osamu, for his own purpose, has written down accounts of the crime including the last time he saw Hidaka. Osamu visited Hidaka on the day of his death as did Miyako Fujio, so Detective Kaga requests Osamu’s accounts in order to help him piece together the crime.

With a couple of slips made by the killer, it doesn’t take too long for Kaga to solve the crime, and while he’s pressured to close the case, there’s something that doesn’t quite add up. A mental duel begins to take place between the detective and the perp–a lazier detective would walk away, but Kaga isn’t satisfied with the solution to the crime. Determined to discover the truth, Kaga keeps digging. Eventually he uncovers a simmering resentment, so evil, it’s staggering in its ambition.

Malice was another foray into Japanese crime, and it was an intense, ingenious, deeply psychological read which showed this reader that the police procedural can be full of unpredictable twists and turns. The witness statements and the detective’s speech at the end of the book were a little rough, but apart from that, Malice is highly recommended. The plot interested me, in particular, because it argues that the victim has no one to speak for them.

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16 Comments

Filed under Fiction, Higashino Keigo

16 responses to “Malice: Keigo Higashino

  1. JJ

    Sounds intriguing, and I knw I need to return to Higashino soon. I enjoyed Salvation of a Satin, though it runs out of plot halfway through, and I picked up Suspect X on the back of that since it, too, is highly regarded. If that pans out, I shall head here next — love a locked room murder, and I’m finding much to enjoy in Japanese detective fiction at present…

    • I have the two you mentioned. It’s taken me far too long to break into Japanese crime fiction.

      • JJ

        There seems to have beenna quiet indsutry in translating quite a lot of stuff for several years now — once you start digging in search of new things, it’s actually quite surprising how many English translations of Japanese detective novels there are. Which makes a pleasant change!

  2. Sounds good, Guy. I recall seeing positive reviews of another of this author’s books, Suspect X.

  3. I’ve read this one and enjoyed it. It made me think of the old TV series Derrick, where the detective seems to have an instinctive understanding of the psychology of the people involved and works back from that, rather than the other way round.

  4. This sounds excellent. I’m not surprised that it’s a very different police procedural. I feel like I’ve got one if this author’s books but can’t remember which one.

  5. Is this standalone or part of a series Guy?

  6. I’ve read one by him and really enjoyed it.
    This one sounds good too.

  7. You’ve tempted this reader enough to add it to my TBR. Thank you

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