Malice

by

Author: Lisa Jackson

Title: Malice

Genre: Suspense

Publication Date: March 2009

Number of Pages: 480/ Number of Compact Discs: 13 unabridged

Geographical Setting: Southern California

Time Period: Present

Series: Bentz/Montoya, New Orleans Series

Plot Summary:

Malice is a suspenseful, fast-paced story that takes a straight-shooting police officer and places him in an impossible situation. Upon awakening from a coma, Rick Bentz is haunted by sightings of his ex-wife Jennifer. The same woman whose body he identified in a fatal car crash 12 years earlier. When he receives a package with fresh pictures of Jennifer and a copy of her birth certificate with a question mark written on it, Bentz journeys back to California and a sorrowful past he left behind there. His presence sets off a string of murders, menacing phone calls, and more sightings of his dead ex-wife.

Malice is an action-oriented story that pulls the reader along thanks to Jackson’s concise writing and knack for creating intrigue. The reader is implicitly invited to try and put the pieces of the puzzle together, gaining access to other perspectives besides the main protagonist. Jackson combines multiple plot threads and threats in short, sparse chapters that keep the material from being confusing or complex. This is the sixth book in a series, and offers a more in-depth look at a popular character’s past, which in turn makes it a touch more psychological than other bestseller of the week suspense tales. It is moody and serious. The plot is sprinkled with romance as it explores both Rick’s marriage to his current wife Olivia, but the book is focused on suspense and intrigue as Rick races to solve the mystery of why he was led to southern California.

Readers who enjoy clear-cut characters and closed-endings will be happy to know characters are generally familiar and recognizable as good or bad. The ending is definitively closed and ties up all the plot threads neatly.

Subject Headings: Detectives, Serial murders, Husband and wife, Widowers, Secrets, Murder suspects, Serial murderers

Appeal: suspenseful, plot oriented, concise, familiar characters, closed ending, menacing, mysterious, puzzling, thrilling, action filled, multiple plot threads, different POVs (including serial killer), haunting, psychological

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: fast-paced, menacing, thrilling

Relevant Nonfiction Works and Authors:

Dangerous Women: why mothers, daughters, and sisters become stalkers, molesters, and murderers, by Larry A. Morris – Jennifer is a compulsive cheater who propels Rick Bentz to return to Southern California and find out if she is still alive and plotting revenge against him for her death 12 years earlier. Readers may enjoy this exploration of what causes women to behave psychotically.

Mistaken identity: two families, one survivor, unwavering hope, by Don Van Ryn – Rick spends nearly the entire book second-guessing his identification of Jennifer’s body at the scene of her car accident. Ryn’s book follows a true case of mistaken identity thanks to a car accident.

In the Still of the Night, by Ann Rule – It is revealed in the prologue that Jennifer did not kill herself but was instead being stalked by someone who may have murdered her. Rule’s true crime story follows the investigation of a death ruled as a suicide but may have been a murder.

Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

The Drop, by Michael Connelly – Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch investigates a serial killer and deals with office politics and corruption in this fast-paced but more character-driven mystery story also set in California and focusing on a long-unsolved mystery.

Cold Vengeance, by Doug Preston and Lincoln Child – FBI agent Aloysius Pendergast tries to figure out the details of his wife’s bizarre death 12 years ago and begins to believe it may have been a part of a greater conspiracy in this plot-driven, suspenseful tale that delves into ideas of the occult. (Note: this is a part of a sequence in a larger series; readers may want to at least start with the preceding book, Fever Dream).

Stealing Shadows, by Kay Hooper – Readers who enjoy the psychic yet realistic character of Olivia Bentz may also like Hooper’s protagonist Cassie Neill. Neill is a member of the LAPD who has used her telepathic powers to try and stop serial killers in this fast-paced romantic suspense tale.

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