Book Review – They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen

This is the second book I’ve read by Tammy Cohen. I’m going to be straightforward here – there’s no doubt the first one “When She was Bad”(review of that here) was waaaay better.

I was shamefully seduced by the persuasive text on the back cover, as well as the promise of a satisfying twist on the front . Hannah, currently a patient at a womens’ psychiatric boarding clinic was admitted there because of something she had done in the past. Of course, the writer leaves out what exactly she has done till about  halfway through the story. We’ll get back to that. So, the main plot lines follow alongside the death of two fellow patients Sofia and Charlie. Hannah suspects that there were murdered, and did not commit suicide as officially reported. No one seems to believe her as she is not exactly in the healthiest mental state herself; who’s going to believe a nutcase?

I felt this book was rather put-downable. I racked my brains trying to figure out what exactly made it so, and came up with several. One – there were too many characters with their own small tiny sub-plots that don’t contribute to the ending. After awhile, I just didn’t care too much for what happens to them and their small little problems. Two – the only exciting part was the last twenty pages out of 370. That’s about 5% of the book (yes i calculated that). Three (perhaps tied to point two a little) – there weren’t many nuggets of information being thrown at me, peppering my imagination. As a result, my impatient brain started taking on the burden akin to a lost and quickly getting weary traveler.

The ending was indeed somewhat unexpected, and did include said twist. I felt that Tammy Cohen’s novels have an identifiable quality to them. A plethora of characters thrown at you in the beginning – most of them will be irrelevant in the end. Out of these, a few of them will be important, and at  the end, one of the insignificant or least expected ones will serve as the plot twist. Oh wait, or is this applicable to basically ALL psychological thrillers? I’m not sure yet. I guess this just fell short of hooking me in.

Rating: 3/5

P.S.: the ‘thing’ that Hannah had done that earned her place in the clinic – I thought that would contribute to the ending, or tie up with her own state of mind, or something. Well….

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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