A Review: Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James

by |May 25, 2010

Beautiful Malice is a novel by Australian author Rebecca James and what a brilliant novel it is.

My sister (who had a proof-reading copy) recommended this book to me and I was hooked from the very first page, the very first line even.

It is a suspenseful and often thrilling story that doesn’t reveal itself to the final chapter – it is well worth the read.

I was so enthralled with this novel that I had trouble going back to work after reading it in my lunch break.

A brilliant novel that I would whole-heartedly recommend for all to read.

The Booktopia Team.

About Beautiful Malice:

With a page-turning plot and characters that leap off the page, this is the story of an obsessive friendship and dark secrets that can no longer be hidden.

‘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.

SUBMIT YOUR REVIEW HERE – add a comment below.

Booktopia Customer,  Mandee Clarke has sent in her review of Beautiful Malice :

I loved Beautiful Malice. I received it at work and started reading it in my lunch break and I had it finished by 11.00 pm that night. The story was captivating, the characters were likeable and the ending was sad. Teenage novel – nah. I’m in my thirties, an avid reader and thought it was great. I’ve passed it on to family members and friends who share my opinion.

BTW – loving Booktopia’s recent sales. I have more books than I can keep up with. I’m in heaven!!!

Thank You, Mandee!

Emma, our Customer Service Supervisor says…

I absolutely loved it, I haven’t read anything like it in ages – if ever, really. Her style of writing has a freshness to it – I’m not sure how to explain what I mean –  it just feels different. I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see ‘who, how and when‘ and couldn’t finish it fast enough. It was a simple and complex story all at once, filled with love laughter and sadness. You genuinely feel for the characters throughout the unfolding of the story. I hope it isn’t too long before Rebecca James releases another book.

Thank You, Emma!

Booktopia Customer,  Jenny Mounfield, has sent in her review of Beautiful Malice :

Like many, I eagerly awaited the release of Rebecca James’, Beautiful Malice after reading her inspiring story of discovery. (As an author, I am a sucker for such success stories.)

When the book arrived I dropped everything and curled up on the couch with it, only moving for coffee fixes and loo breaks. Naturally my expectations were high, which is rarely a good thing because what can ever live up to that?

The story — or rather two stories — concerns the murder of main character Katherine’s sister, Rachel, told through flashbacks, and Katherine’s efforts to make a new, anonymous life for herself in Sydney after these life-shattering events. Once in Sydney, Katherine is befriended by the popular, effervescent Alice, and for the first time since Rachel’s death, feels there is actually some hope of life beyond tragedy. Alice, however, has other ideas.

As the story progresses it becomes more and more evident that Alice is mentally unhinged. It is Alice’s state of mind as well as her actions that drive this story to its climax — a climax which, I have to say, I found unsatisfying and as unlikely as it was dramatic. One major mistake I feel James made was to foreshadow the demise of two major players early in the novel. As a result I found it difficult to emotionally bond with one of these characters in particular knowing that he would soon be gone. (And it wasn’t rocket science figuring out who would perpetrate this.)

To sum up: Beautiful Malice is at its heart a great story, but it feels a little too cobbled together and therefore doesn’t live up to the back cover promise of being ‘an addictive, psychological thriller’. With some fine-tuning it could have been. Also, I found the story of Rachel’s murder far more thrilling and well-written than the main, which tended to merely drift along at times. Still, for the most part I enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to teens, which, of course, it is intended.

Thank You, Jenny!

Booktopia Customer, Suzan Fayle, has sent in her review of Beautiful Malice :

I saw Rebecca James interviewed at the 2010 Sydney Writer’s Festival, along with Kristin Tranter. They were two young, newly published Australian writers who had both sold their manuscripts for large sums of money. I’d read Tranter’s book (and enjoyed it), and had bought Beautiful Malice but hadn’t read it. I wondered whether the book had been over hyped, but for once the hype was justified; from the opening paragraph I was hooked by the simple yet evocative writing, and the casual yet determined tone.

The protagonist (and narrator), Katherine, although aged between 15 and 22 during the course of the story, has a maturity developed by the tragedies in her young life. Cleverly managed by the author, the reader can see that Alice isn’t all that Katherine thinks she is, and this forms much of the tension throughout the book. The dialogue is punchy and rings true, and the plot, despite jumping back and forth in time, allows the story to flow at a satisfying pace.

Despite the reader insight, Beautiful Malice leads us through a range of emotions, as Katherine’s grief rings true to those of us who have suffered bereavement. And although the story starts at the end (almost), there are plenty of plot twists to allow the tension to last to the final page, making this book indeed a ‘page-turner’.

I thoroughly enjoyed Beautiful Malice and highly recommend it to readers of all age groups.

Thank you, Suzan!

Read an Extract of Beautiful Malice click here…

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  • May 25, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Really, really enjoyed it. If I read the first page of a book and am hooked, I buy it then and there.

    Beautiful Malice and I went home that very day from the bookshop and over the course of the next 4 days or so, I read it every chance I got.

    It even scared me a little at times, I was worried about what the next chapter would reveal. And that doesn’t happen to me often 🙂

  • May 27, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    I also really enjoyed it :> although i think it would appeal to the 30 and under, what do you think…

    I have just finished Beautiful Malice (Rebecca James). This book captured the media’s attention after it sparked an international bidding war for its publishing rights. This book is targeted at the young adult/ adult cross over market (think twilight) and possibly for this reason I found it really easy to read.

    This gripping psychological thrill is James’s debut novel and examines grief, friendship and love with some interesting twists. It follows Katherine Patterson, a 16 years old girl who is trying to escape the realities of her sisters murder by moving cities and changing her name. Katherine, to her surprise, quickly becomes close friends with Alice, who has other motives for their relationship apart from friendship.

    I flew through this novel, and enjoyed the simplicity of the writing. I would recommend this to anyone wanting an easy to read but gripping thriller.

  • May 28, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Firstly, a slight digression. Under normal circumstances, I probably would not have read “Beautiful Malice”. I don’t read much contemporary Australian fiction (not sure why), and I would have considered this book “too young” for me: the main characters are in their late teens. However, I’ve been following Rebecca James on Twitter for a while, and she is kind, warm, and funny. This is her first book to be published, and there has been some publicity surrounding the nature of the publishing deal: quite big bucks involved for a first-time author and all that. Great things have been predicted for “Beautiful Malice “.

    So, I was curious about the book, and when I saw it on the shelf at the book store, I didn’t hesitate, and snapped it up. The book sat for a couple of days while I ventured further into the dark and twisted world of “The Kindly Ones”, and then, tiring of Max Aue, I picked up “Beautiful Malice” and started to read.

    The trick to writing is to hook the reader with the first sentence, or at least the first paragraph. If you don’t do that, if the reader isn’t intrigued, amused, or curious at the outset, then you’re likely to lose them. So, I was pleased to find that the hook was there, dangling, and all I had to do was latch on, and allow the book to reel me in.

    I don’t want to give away the plot, but the narrative revolves around toxic relationships between people. When Katherine starts her final year at a new high school and meets Alice, her world changes in ways she could never have predicted. What starts out as a friendship turns into something else altogether.

    The suspense steadily builds as little snippets of information are revealed, until the whole truth, around which the novel revolves, is laid bare. This slow reveal is cleverly done; the narrative slips from present to past and back again, and all the while the tension builds, the pages seem to turn themselves, and the reader is drawn deeper into the story.

    I’m particularly impressed by the characterisation: I feel as though I “know” those people. At times I wondered if Rebecca James had met my half-sister, because she and Alice have a lot in common! Then there’s Katherine, who is trying to find a way to live with her grief and guilt; I found her immensely likeable and cared about what happened to her. Although” Beautiful Malice” is fiction, it’s not fanciful: everything that happens is believable.

    I think the book will appeal to readers of all ages. It’s an intriguing psychological thriller that grabbed my attention on the first page, and kept me reading, and wondering what would happen next. I hope “Beautiful Malice” has great success, and I look forward to reading more from this talented writer.

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