Sometimes when I'm reading, it takes me a while to get into the flow of the narrative, but Malice grabbed me from the start. The writing is smooth, and Higashino strikes the right balance between dialogue and description. He knows when to show and when to tell, the reading equivalent of drinking the perfect cup of coffee--just the right blend, not too acidic, not too sweet. For example, consider this line: "Though Kaga spoke softly, I could feel his words slowly advancing toward me, each step powerful, inevitable." So smooth, and yet so weighty.
An interesting factor is the alternating narrators. For the first part of the book, a chapter is narrated by Nonoguchi, an author, former school teacher, and murder suspect; then the following chapter is narrated by Kaga, detective in charge of the case and Nonoguchi's former coworker. This technique, skillfully executed, gives the book a sense of "real time" happenings and provides the reader with intimate access to the push-and-pull between Kaga and Nonoguchi. Higashino deftly handles the shift in POV and gives Nonoguchi and Kaga each a unique tone and voice. Not every author can handle this style of writing, but Higashino pulls it off without a hitch.
The crux of the conflict is less about identifying who killed Hidaka, and much more about determining why. What drives someone to murder another person, especially a benefactor, after so many years of friendship? How might a child's past prejudice manifest itself in his adult present? Higashino takes the reader on a journey into the depths of the human heart and the intricacies and complexities between emotions and morality.
I couldn't be a detective. There's no way I could filter out fact from fiction and relevant info from filler. Malice made me think, and even though I was wrong is much of what I surmised, I still enjoyed the process.