Book Review – When She was Bad by Tammy Cohen

“A refreshingly different kind of psychological thriller” – that is how I would describe this book in one sentence. When I saw that Clare Mackintosh had added her comment on the cover of this book –  “Clever and fresh. I loved it!“, I knew this would be a winner. After all, I did enjoy I Let You Go.

Sarah, Amira, Paula, Ewan, Charlie & Chloe works at the HR department of a recruitment agency in London. On the surface, they enjoy a reasonably good relationship with one another at work. Then their old boss Gill  gets sacked. Her replacement, Rachel, turns out to a really aggressive: pitting them against each other, having favorites, etc. This ‘relationship’ starts to break down. Truths start to reveal themselves. Who secretly hates everyone? Who is tortured by their past? Who is capable of murder?

The story is told from the perspective of each of the main characters in turn, each of them taking a separate chapter. This is interleaved with the narrative from someone called Anne. At first (of course), Anne’s story seems to be unrelated. As the story progresses, her story and the story of the six main characters predictably come together at the end. Just to entice you, Anne is a research psychologist for some early childhood trauma studies. Ahhh.. I hope I’ve left a clue, as well a a flicker of anticipation for a fellow potentially interested reader!

The first book I’ve read by Tammy Cohen – why do I say it’s refreshing? Well, most psychological thrillers are based at home and deals with domestic issues, but the setting for this one is primarily in the workplace. Think Gone Girl, or Girl on the Train,but at the workplace. Perfect book for the person who loves, or maybe even hates office politics. You’ll never look at your co-workers the same way again.

The writing makes for easy reading; I finished the book in a couple of days (I would’ve taken much shorter but I keep getting distracted by my little ones). At first, I was worried that the introduction of so many main characters at the beginning of the book would confuse me as to who was who. However, Cohen’s description of the characters was distinctive enough for me to tell them apart. They were believable and perhaps you would even liken yourself to one of the them. Cohen keeps you guessing, dropping clues here and there, and keeping you wondering till the very end.

Rating: 4.5/5

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