Malice by Danielle Steel

spider web covers front dust jacket of Malice by Danielle SteelMalice, Danielle Steel’s 37th novel, is a failed experiment with the crime-novel format. Unlike romance fiction, which requires writers only to prompt readers to imagine what happens, crime fiction requires writers to show in what happens.

Steel begins the story the day of Ellen Adam’s funeral. After the mourners have left and the house is silent, Ellen’s husband rapes their 17-year-old daughter as he’s been doing with his wife’s complicity since the girl was 13.

For the first time, that night Grace fights back, grabbing the gun her mother kept in her bedside stand, and killing her father with it.

Grace refuses to explain why she shot him.

She’s tried, found guilty of voluntary manslaughter, and sentenced to 2 years in prison plus two on probation.

Grace gets out of jail, gets an office job, and starts doing volunteer work with abused women and children. Before long, she’s working for a New York lawyer, then married to him.

They have three children and Charles is a candidate for Congress when the tabloid press uncovers her past.

Even though Grace’s abusive childhood experience is plausible, her several recoveries from subsequent abuse are too quick, and too dependent on flowers, banana splits, and deus ex machina techniques to feel true to readers.

Malice by Danielle Steel
Delacorte. ©1996. 350 p.
1996 bestseller #6 My grade: C+

©2020 Linda G. Aragoni

The Fixer refuses to let hatred break him

Some novels are hard to read because they are badly written; a few are hard to read because they are very well written.

The Fixer is one of those few.

The Fixer: a novel by Bernard Malamud

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1966. 335 pp. 1966 bestseller #6. My grade: A.

The front dust jacket looks like cell door; the title and author information are placed so they appear to be behind bars.Yakov Bok, a handyman recently come to Kiev, sees people running in the early morning and thinks “something bad has happened.”

Bok is one of those people who seem to be natural victims. He never causes trouble: It finds him.

A Russian boy, 12, has been found murdered.

Tzarist Russia, viciously anti-Semitic, sees not a murder but a Jewish ritual slaying to provide blood to use in making Passover matzos.

Though Bok is only “a Jew by birth and nationality,” he finds himself arrested and charged with a murder he didn’t commit.

Bernard Malamud puts readers into Bok’s mind as his misery pushes him to the edge of insanity.

For nearly his entire two-and-a-half-year pre-trial imprisonment, Bok is kept in solitary confinement, denied reading material or exercise, watched by a silent “eye in the hole” of his cell door.

Bok’s refusal to confess embarrasses the government.

It also makes Bok a public figure.

Readers never learn what happens to the fixer when he finally goes to trial, but they will never forget having met him.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni