It can often take me weeks or months to finish a reading a book, between household duties, school and kinder run, my own writing and websurfing. Beautiful Malice however I could not put down and was read within 24 hours.
I first read about Rebecca James and her debut novel in The Age. She was hailed as the 'next JK Rowling' due to being an unknown picked from the slush pile and the subject of bidding wars.
Here is the description from publisher Allen & Unwin:
'Truth or dare?' she asks.
I hesitate. I have so many secrets, so many things I don't want to reveal, but this is only a game, only a bit of fun. 'Truth,' I say finally. 'I can imagine one of your dares, and I don't fancy running down Oxford Street naked tonight.'
'Truth,' Alice says slowly, drawing out the vowel sound as if she's savouring the word. 'Are you sure? Are you sure you can be completely honest?'
'I think so. Try me.'
'Okay.' And then she looks at me curiously. 'So. Were you glad, deep down? Were you glad to be rid of her? Your perfect sister? Were you secretly glad when she was killed?'
Katherine has moved away from her shattered once-perfect family to start a new life in Sydney. There she keeps her head down until she is befriended by the charismatic Alice, and her life takes her in new directions. But there is a dark side to Alice, and as we learn the truth of Katherine's sister's death and Alice's background their story spirals to an explosive finale.
A potent, intense and simply unputdownable psychological thriller from an exciting voice.
As I said I also could not put Beautiful Malice down. It's in the Young Adult genre although works well as an Adult Fiction novel due to its dark themes and because the main characters don't seem to be typical teenagers, not as I have known them to be anyway.
I understand from reviews that some people had a problem with the switching between times as it goes between Katherine in Sydney upon meeting Alice, Katherine as Katie a couple of years earlier with her doomed sister Rachel, and Katherine as a 22 year old with a daughter, but I had no trouble following it.
There were a couple of parts which left me confused; some character motivation which I either didn't understand or need to read again (or maybe it's just that I'm not psychotic!)
Overall it was an interesting and compelling read, some twists were predictable, some were complete surprises, and although I felt one or two characters to be a bit weak they were more than made up for by the main characters.
But the most interesting thing I discovered was that I was still thinking about it long after I'd turned the last page. So regardless of the hype and expectations to me that is a good read. I look forward to Rebecca James' next book.