Malice, 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