When children’s book author Osamu Nonoguchi stumbles upon the dead body of his fellow writer and friend, Kunihiko Hidaka in his locked study, suspicion immediately falls on him. Yet both Nonoguchi and the dead author’s wife have watertight alibis.
It falls upon the tireless and literary-minded detective Kyoichiro Kaga to unravel the mystery. Suspects include a neighbour whose cat had been allegedly poisoned by Hidaka and a disgruntled woman who claims his novels ruined her brother’s reputation. Yet suspicion keeps returning to Nonoguchi.
In a delicious cat-and-mouse game, the relentless detective and the author take turns narrating the story. It is a masterful storytelling technique used by legendary Japanese crime writer Keigo Higashino, leaving readers doubtful about whose account they can trust.
Malice is a psychological crime novel that makes the identity of the killer evident halfway into the novel but keeps the motive hidden till the very end. At the heart of the mystery lies the tumultuous relationship between the murdered Hidaka and the less successful Nonoguchi. As detective Kaga digs deeper, he uncovers a history of high-school bullies, plagiarism, gnawing insecurities and the burning jealousy of writers.
The Independent called the book “an exceptional study of the psychology of murder as well as a skilfully plotted narrative.”
Published in 1996. Translated from Japanese by Alexander O Smith, 2014.