Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook
For fans of We Were Liars and The Girl on the Train comes a chilling, addictive psychological thriller about a teenage girl who cannot remember the last six weeks of her life.
Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron’s senior trip to Italy was supposed to be the adventure of a lifetime. And then the accident happened. Waking up in a hospital room, her leg in a cast, stitches in her face, and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be, Jill comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident in her travels abroad. 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. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.
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.
As a firm fan of the mystery/thriller genre, I understand that it can be a tricky- if not fickle- category: many titles which sound promising and/or get rave reviews and unending press can end up being disappointing; conversely, titles which are quieter and/or perhaps less buzzed about can impress, surprise and shock. I am very happy to say that Canadian author Eileen Cook has done a wonderful job with her psychological thriller With Malice. Compulsively readable, enticing, fast-paced and sharp, With Malice is a great example of YA mystery done right.
Through the first-person narrative of eighteen-year-old Jill, readers are taken for a disquieting, terrifying and revealing journey. Slowly recovering in hospital after a devastating car crash that killed her best friend, Jill is not only mourning, but also frantically trying to remember anything about the last six weeks. The weeks leading up to her and Simone’s fatal trip abroad to Italy and the accident itself are a big blank, and Jill and her parents are in a panic. To add to Jill’s frustrations and worries is the matter of the press and media outlets which have made Jill out as a monster and murderer: the cold, rich and jealous plain Jane who crashed a car in order to kill her popular, beautiful, poor and supposedly angelic best friend.
In chapters alternating between Jill’s fascinating narrative, there are also mixed media entries- i.e. police interview transcripts, reports from psychiatrists, emails, social media posts, and messages. I have said it before that the mixed media format can be a terrific addition to a mystery, and Cook clearly knows how to work it for the best here! Through these tantalizing and often sensational entries, the story- and Jill’s narrative- gains an additional level of intrigue and doubt. I have to say that while I was initially uncertain/surprised by the ending the author chose to give to Jill and Simone, upon closer consideration, I find it supremely interesting- and likely debate-inducing!
Overall, I very much enjoyed With Malice and would absolutely recommend it for readers looking for an imminently readable young adult mystery. Fast-paced, focused, and strongly written- with careful consideration to give just enough background on brain-injury and patient rehabilitation- Cook has done a terrific job. Readers who enjoy the writing of authors like Mary Kubica or Kimberly McCreight, or those who enjoy the mystery offerings of YA authors such as Jessica Warman, Mariah Fredericks, April Henry, or Ally Carter might especially appreciate the thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride that is With Malice.
I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.