Published by Abacus
Publication date – 5 February 2015
Source – review copy
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, 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. Years ago when they were both teachers, they were colleagues at the same high school. Kaga went on to join the police force while Osamu Nonoguchi left to become a full-time writer, though with not nearly the success of his friend Hidaka. But Kaga thinks something is a little bit off with Nonoguchi’s statement and 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 the two claimed. Nonoguchi confesses to the murder, but that’s only the beginning of the story.
In a brilliantly realized tale of cat and mouse, the detective and the writer battle over the truth of the past and how events that led to the murder really unfolded. Which one of the two writers was ultimately guilty of malice?
Nonoguchi goes to visit his friend, acclaimed author Kunihiko Hidaka before Hidaka moves to Canada. Returning later that evening he finds his friend dead, his body in a locked room. Detective Kyochiro Kaga arrives at the scene. He soon has his suspicions but when Nonoguchi confesses, he realises his investigation has only just begun.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Nonoguchi, the murdered man’s friend and Detective Kaga, alternating between the two. As the story progresses, the clues are laid out for the reader and more information about the past of Hidaka and Nonoguchi is revealed.
The culprit is revealed quite early in the book. The tale then turns from a who to a why. Kaga is relentless. His bosses are keen to wrap up the case but he is sure there is more to the murder than it seems. He looks further into it, going back into the past of the murderer and the victim, looking for inconsistencies and false trails to finally arrive at the truth.
I was unfortunately unable to find out who translated this book but whoever it was did a fantastic job. At no time did I think I was reading anything other than the author’s direct words, always the sign of a great translation. The writing has that magical element unique to Japanese work, a sense of something almost mythical. This is often the way with translated fiction, as if they are being read through a gossamer thin veil of some otherworldliness.
Malice had been sat on my bookshelf for many years before I picked it up. I’m a mood reader and often it seems I find the right book at the right time. In this case I was in the mood for Japanese fiction and I picked this up to take a look. Two days later I had finished. I found myself soon drawn into the world the author had created, fascinated by how the narrative was dealt with. The saying better late than never definitely applies here.
This is a very clever tale of deceit and lies, intriguing and compelling. I shall be making sure to read more by Keigo Higashino very soon.