I feel really lucky this year to have found so many great thrillers, from Trust Me by Gemma Metcalfe to The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson. Now I have the pleasure of adding When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen to this much-esteemed list.
When She Was Bad focuses on characters Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie who have worked together for years. They pride themselves on teamwork and are happy with the office dynamics, that is until Rachel takes over the manager’s role. Suddenly, there is a chill in the air and Cohen asks: “Which of them could be capable of murder?”
I was excited to read When She Was Bad and then I got a copy of the book and was told it was only okay, so I felt less excited. Then I started reading the book and it became more and more addictive until I got to the end and decided that was really great. Do you follow? Good, because I am going to tell you why.
This story was very intriguing. Mainly because it was a complete guessing game. I can honestly say that I didn’t know until the end who the perpetrator was. For the first three-quarters of the book it was hard to tell as there were so many characters in the loop and, while there was a minor reference to why each might kill, nothing stood out as too obvious. Then, for the last quarter of the book, the author plays games with you. So many things happen consequently that it is hard to decide who the murderer is; my mind changed every couple of pages or so.
However, even thought there were so many characters, not one of them was relatable, or even likeable. Another mind game from the author to keep you guessing, perhaps? I wondered at times what the point of each of the characters was, especially Anne, who is not mentioned in the blurb but plays a vital part in the story. All I will say is that she is a psychologist who sees a news story and recognises the person involved. For most of the book, it was only her I was interested in – keep your eye on her.
Another negative of having so many characters was that it was sometimes hard to keep up. It frustrated me at the beginning of the book but by the end, I thought it was almost genius how Cohen mixed everybody in.
As I am mentioning the end, I have to say I was dreading it. I was told that it was rather abrupt and not as satisfying as you would expect. And I can see how that would be. Everything concludes with about 30 pages or so and the chapters become brief, giving an almost rushed feeling. But I liked it. I feel like I got all the information I needed. And, considering I have read great books with much worse endings, I was relieved. Plus, the overall ending was not something I saw coming!
I have to recommend this book to you. It is an addictive thriller you just don’t want to miss.