The blurb describes this book as a ‘chilling psychological thriller’ and to be honest, that was enough for me to grab it off the shelf. I’m assuming the title ‘With Malice’ is almost an antithesis of the term ‘With Love’. Although it could refer to the legal concept of malicious intent too; both of which would be very relevant to the novel’s plot.
The narrator and protagonist is Jill Charron an 18-year old student who describes herself as being quite shy but very intelligent and academic-focused. Upon first impressions she is pretty likable and honest. I personally, find her relatable too since she is very academic and intellectually curious. An example of her honesty shining through is when Jill moves in to a treatment centre and assumes her room mate Anna Lopez goes to a school with metal detectors. Thus, indicating to the reader these assumptions are likely due to Anna’s implied Hispanic background.
Cook puts us in an interesting position where we follow Jill’s train of thought as she gradually pieces together details of the accident that caused her injuries. In each chapter along with Jill’s narrative we gain access to police interview transcripts, applications etc. This is clever, allowing the reader to play detective but also avoiding the issue of the reader being forced to trust an ‘unreliable narrator’ by giving us a second source of information to compare to Jill’s version events. In addition to this, each chapter ends with something important Jill learns within the chapter; and as cliche as it sounds, it really does make you want to read on!
Nevertheless, despite these positive points, I found that by the time I had nearly reached the end of the book Jill STILL hadn’t remembered much about the accident. I understand the author was maybe trying to be realistic since I’m sure it takes ages for patients in real-life to recover from amnesia. However, this is a book and we don’t have ages. Even the way the recollection of events (when it finally happened) was done was quite annoying because after waiting for so long we don’t even know for sure if its a true memory, a dream or a ‘fake memory’. Suspense is good but by the end of this book I didn’t really feel like it was effective, I was just annoyed and wanted answers. This alone dropped my rating from a 5 to a 3.5/5.