BOOK REVIEW – When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

When She Was BadThank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

I’ve read most of Tammy Cohen’s previous psychological thrillers and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. She doesn’t write to a formula as some authors do – she manages to surprise her readers every single time. The twists in this are enough to give you whiplash!

The storyline takes place in a London office and alternates between the perspectives of the colleagues working there and the first person narrative of Anne Cater (I smiled at the use of this well-known book blogger’s name), an American child psychologist reminiscing about one of the biggest cases of her career and its horrific background.

Amirah, Sarah, Cleo, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together quite happily (although maybe not so efficiently) for quite some time. When their boss Gill is suddenly and unceremoniously given the sack it leaves everyone feeling quite unsettled, a feeling with grows startlingly worse with the arrival of their new boss, Rachel Masters.

Rachel is smart, gorgeous and takes no nonsense right from Day 1. She makes it very clear that she’s been brought in to shake things up and she intends to do just that. And while she’s doing so, each individual member of this once cohesive team starts to unravel ever so slowly. Their personal secrets that they cling to so tightly begin to become cloyingly all-consuming, threatening to overtake every aspect of their lives until they’re unable to function on any normal level, or interact with each other without becoming suspicious of every exchange.

And as the suspense builds, so too does Ann’s story as we see that the two accounts are so obviously intertwined. But how? You might think you know just where the author is leading you, so you inevitably try to guess how everything and everyone fits together … just keep reading and see how that all works out for you!

This is an intricately, skilfully woven page-turner. I’ve worked in an office environment where my co-workers and I were forced to second-guess ourselves constantly, always watching our backs, constantly wary of who was in or out of favour that week, or even on any particular given day! It’s not a pleasant environment to work in, and you can’t help but carry that relentless feeling of negativity into most other areas of your life. Tammy Cohen depicts all of that so perfectly here, and you’ll feel decidedly uncomfortable as you enter into the lives of these rather ordinary people, trying to hide the fact that they’re all just as dysfunctional as each other. But while we’re navigating the daily labyrinths of ghastly bosses, gossiping colleagues, grouchy partners and grumpy children, and while we try to remind ourselves that we’re all just running to keep up in this human race, we forget that there are very real dangers, often right in front of our eyes.

Do we lack the skills to recognise who the real monsters are?

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