Jill Charron wakes up, unable to remember the past six weeks, and discovers her best friend is dead. Did she do it? Pick up Eileen Cook’s With Malice to find out.
Jill and Simone went to Italy on an Adventures Abroad Program during their senior year of high school, and they’d been friends since the fourth grade. Then, a week or so into the program, the car they are driving crashes over a wall and Simone is killed and Jill is gravely injured. There is no question that Jill was driving the car. The question is: Did she mean to kill Simone? Did she mean to kill herself? Was it an accident? Was something wrong with the car? When Jill wakes up in an American hospital room later, she has no idea how she got there, that she’d even been to Italy at all, and she genuinely doesn’t know if she killed Simone on purpose or not. Throughout the 300-odd pages, she begins to figure it out though.
Each chapter in With Malice goes back and forth between Jill in the hospital and in rehab trying to remember what happened in Italy and other documents,like police reports, interviews, blog posts, etc, about the case as it unfolds. The documents don’t automatically reveal what happened to Jill and Simone abroad, but they help the audience unlock some clues that show things aren’t what they seem. This book reminded me a lot of the Amanda Knox case, mostly because of the Italy connection, but I think the conflicting stories of the friendship from outside sources and a man in the picture was another similarity that cannot be overlooked. Of course, the actual “crime” is much different, but I think that makes it harder to unpack whether it was on purpose or accidental, and ultimately, when you discover the truth at the end, you’re only partially satisfied because it could have gone either way.
Throughout this book, I liked that Jill was struggling with her memory, but I wish she would have gotten it back more gradually than in one fowl swoop, huge chunks, an entire scene that mattered, ya know? There were a couple glimpses she remembered earlier, but to go from one image to an entire scene, dialogue and all, was unbelievable from me,especially coming from a girl who couldn’t remember the word curtain because of her aphasia.