“Beautiful Bad” was a very invigorating and unique edition to the psychological thriller genre. To begin, this novel is told in a few different perspectives: Maddie throughout the years building up to the “Day of Killing”, the actual “Day of Killing”, a third person perspective of Ian, letters and emails, and Maddie in the weeks prior to the killing.
I have to admit, that I was highly skeptical of this story, when I had read the premise. In already knowing that all of the events build up to a murder, the book is already polarizing. Some readers may think that knowing this adds suspense. However, readers like me believe that knowing this takes all of the dramatic tension out the window, because we know when the murder will take place; at the end of the book, most likely the climax. As little as I like to say this, I was absolutely wrong. I have been experiencing a period of reading psychological thrillers that I haven’t been too impressed by. Nonetheless, this book really opened up into a fantastically layered story.
The main gist follows the beginning of Maddie and Ian’s relationship; hot and cold, suspicious, manipulative, and charming. Maddie and her friend, Johanna, are working in the Middle East, when they meet Ian and his buddies. Ian is enigmatic, intriguing, and also hiding lots of secrets. We wonder throughout the entire book, “Why on earth would either of you have fallen for each other?” They both aren’t prizes. We like them and dislike them at the same time. They make each other swoon and make each other miserable all in a few sentences in a conversation. We also flash back and forth to the “Day of Killing”, seeing detective Diane as she uncovers the aftermath of the murder. Naturally, we know bits and pieces of the night as the book progresses, only to find out the horrific truths in the conclusion.
I liked how well this book was layered. We have normal and then intense conversations and events. We have a really great political setting in the Middle East, as Ian is a soldier, while the women work in less dangerous scenarios. This is very reminiscent of “Homeland” but without Carrie Mathison, thank heavens. I felt that for a very large portion of the book, this did not feel like a thriller. However, the manipulative and abusive sides of the characters created and built depth to the story. We are absolutely fascinated to see what will happen next. In this type of book where we know a lot about the ending as we read, it can be very easy to predict outcomes. So, although I was able to understand where this was going, it was still a very, very great reveal. There were more details and aspects than I thought encompassed in the dramatic climax and conclusion, but I felt it wrapped up the story very well. I feel this thriller took inspiration from many other thrillers like it but improved upon the others’ shortcomings. I’m very pleased with this book. I look forward to reading more books by Annie Ward in the future.
I do believe unfortunately that the endless chapters about Maddie at the therapist felt difficult to endure. I understand that in the conclusion of the story, we understand why they’re so important. However, my God. It’s tiring.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book by the publisher, in exchange for reading and reviewing purposes. Thank you to Park Row Books and Harper Collins.