After suffering a terrible tragedy, Katie Boydell tries to escape her past by moving in with her aunt, attending a new high school, and changing her name to Katherine Patterson. A quiet, self-effacing loner who harbors a dreadful secret, Katherine lets her guard down enough to make friends with Alice Parrie, who’s everything Katherine isn’t—brash, uninhibited, and hedonistic. However, Alice turns out to have more to her than meets the eye, and Katherine’s friendship with her simply leads to more trouble. Since the book starts with Alice’s funeral and Katherine’s hateful thoughts about the deceased, it’s clear up front that their relationship won’t lead anywhere good.
Australian author Rebecca James uses words like a painter, creating the story with small, patient brush strokes. She builds suspense by dropping hints about each revelation of Katherine’s past and Alice’s dark nature before unveiling it. Katherine’s deep longing for connection and short-lived moments of happiness are moving, making the the doomed conclusion all the more powerful. The final shocking twist seems inevitable only in retrospect. Beautiful Malice is an engrossing debut tale of psychological suspense that ponders what our choices say about us and the need to forgive ourselves for our own sins.