I received this book for free from Allen & Unwin Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Written by Eileen Cook
Published June, 2016 by Hot Key Books
Provided by: Allen & Unwin Australia
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Purchase: The Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia
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It was the perfect trip…until it wasn’t.
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last six weeks should be. She discovers she was involved in a fatal car accident while on a school trip in Italy. A trip she doesn’t even remember taking. She was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident.
As the accident makes national headlines, Jill finds herself at the center of a murder investigation. It doesn’t help that the media is portraying her as a sociopath who killed her bubbly best friend, Simone, in a jealous rage. With the evidence mounting against her, there’s only one thing Jill knows for sure: She would never hurt Simone. But what really happened? Questioning who she can trust and what she’s capable of, Jill desperately tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.
This book was such a nice little surprise! With Malice is a complete page-turner, urging the reader to desperately read just one more chapter. A stunning standalone from Eileen Cook that will urge me to discover her previous novels.
“I’d never pictured it possible that I could hurt Simone. And if I had been able to block that memory – it made me wonder what else I was forgetting.”
This is my first novel by Eileen Cook. I can’t say I’m familiar with the author or any of her previous work. Upon seeing the cover of With Malice, my curiosity was instantly piqued. Though I tend to stay away from the ‘teen motivate to murder her best friend’ type of stories (too drama-rama for me) something about With Malice stayed in my mind and I decided to add it to my Goodreads shelf. Cue a week or so later when I saw that Allen & Unwin Australia was hosting a competition with an ARC of the copy available to win…
Yup, I managed to score one. As soon as I finished my previous read, I picked it up and was instantly hooked. With Malice includes a trip to Italy, but really all we’re given is our main protagonist Jill either in a hospital, court or recovery room. What should be boring manages to be positively gripping as we follow Jill through the media circus that has become her life, all while trying to piece together what happened on a trip she can’t even remember.
“I was willing to believe that Simone and I might have fought, and even that if things had been very bad, that I might have shoved her, or hit her. But driving off a cliff with her in the car? Never. Except that the two people who should know me the best in the world seemed to think it was possible.”
Her best friend dead and now a suspect in her murder, Jill struggles to balance recovery and the thought of what her life will be like without Simone. Not sure what to believe – or whom – Jill comes across as a sympathetic character who the reader can instantly relate to. While Jill wasn’t the perfect narrator (she was a bit immature at times) I never struggled with her chapters. I actually wish the mixture of court documents, transcripts, blog posts, etc. that fit between chapters had been left out of the story, as I felt although they added flavour, they offered little in the way of progression or the ability to see the ‘big picture’.
That being said, I found Jill to be a very conflicting character. On one hand everyone seemed to gush about how studious and polite she was, while others spoke about her partying habits and her ability to push Simone into a corner. I know everything was inflated by rumour, but at times I found it hard to fathom how said rumour could even begin when Jill was such a mouse.
At around 300-pages, this one was a quick and entertaining read. I was eagerly ploughing through the chapters to find out what happened, and if Jill would ever get her memory back. As things kept being brought to light (Nico, a knife, footage of the crash) I had no idea how things were going to wrap up. There was a very real possibility Jill was going to have to go back to Italy and things were looking a bit grim.
When we finally learn ‘the truth’, I’m not sure if it’s actually truth at all. To say the ending was disappointing is pushing it a bit, but I wasn’t wholly satisfied where things ended. Yes, I was able to close the book and go ‘okay, then’… but I didn’t feel like the matter was closed. There were so many elements I expected to be a larger focus (Nico – I mean, what the? He could’ve been used in such a big way!) and instead they were glossed over. Still, I didn’t go into this book wanting or needing a hard-hitting mystery that lingered days after the book ended. With Malice is a page-turner and a great shot of entertainment, and I think that’s all it really needs to be.