Malice by Keigo Higashino (Detective Kaga), translated by Alexander O. Smith with Elye Alexander
Just before Kumihiko Hidaka is to move from Tokyo to Vancouver, he’s found in his home office … dead. You won’t have to wait long to find out whodunnit – but don’t let that deter you in any way, because you’ll have to get to the very final page to learn exactly who to blame. Revealing the many layers of whydunnit and howdunnit is consistently fascinating, switching back and forth from a truculently unreliable narrator to a tenaciously persistent detective who accepts nothing at face value.
The last people to see novelist Hidaka – a perennial bestselling success – alive were his second wife of just one month, Rie, and a childhood friend, Osamu Nonoguchi. Rie went ahead to the hotel where Hidaka was to join her later that evening; before that, Nonoguchi was to meet Hidaka for an in-person conversation at the Hidaka home. There Nonoguchi found a corpse instead. Enter Detective Kyoichiro Kaga, who years before taught at the same school as Nonoguchi before both their careers respectively diverged away from the academic.
Obsessively thorough, Kaga’s questioning goes far beyond the wife and close friend – on his roster of interviewees are the neighbor with a dead cat, colleagues past and present, extended relatives, and even acquaintances and pals from decades back when Hidaka and Nonoguchi were just becoming friends as young boys. When it comes to murder, clearly no detail is too small or petty for Kaga to examine.
Carefully separating the truth from all the fodder, then piecing together the elusive pieces in just the right order is the sort of addictive mind game international mega-bestselling writer Keigo Higashino plays. Lucky for bazillions of us readers who get to participate as witness. For those of you who choose to go aural, narrator Jeff Woodman reads with nuance and control, with just enough strained tension to keep you on high alert; he only falters (stumbles, trips, face-plants) when faced with Japanese names. [Don’t get me started on those lazy producers!]
Malice is the first of Higashino’s highly successful Detective Kaga series – with almost a dozen titles in Japan – to be translated into English. Two of his titles from his wildly popular Detective Galileo series – The Devotion of Suspect X and Salvation of a Saint – have hit Stateside with award-winning, lauded success. Let’s hope such celebrated reception will ensure Detective Kaga, too, will continue sleuthing onto U.S. shelves.
Published: 1996 (Japan), 2014 (United States)