Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward
Publishing Date: 21st March 2019
Source: Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!
Number of pages: 400
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Maddie and Ian’s romance began when he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo in Europe. Now sixteen years later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America.
But when an accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.
From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, the years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of shocking crime.
But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?
Perfect for fans of The Woman in the Window and The Wife Between Us.
“Beautiful Bad” starts with a frantic 911 call and it was a great opening, what with the bloody crime scene and the overwhelming feeling of tension. It then switches to 10 weeks before the murder and we are introduced to the main character Maddie who’s currently finding herself in the writing therapy after suffering a head injury and not being able to remember what has happened. She was told by her husband Ian that she’s slipped but the police believe that domestic violence was involved. And so we slowly learn how Maddie and Ian got to know each other in 2001 through her best friend Joanna – the narrative follows this relationship, as well as other significant events that happened in Maddie’s life and makes us ask many questions: why did Joanna always try to convince Maddie she shouldn’t get involved with Ian? Has Maddie really slipped or has there been more to this accident? And whose blood is it, on the kitchen floor?
The story is told from several points of view. Maddie is a travel writer specializing in the countries of Eastern Europe. Her best friend Jo is a relief worker – but I simply couldn’t buy this friendship, there were no warm feelings, no honesty, the relationship lacked in substance – and she introduces Maddie to Ian (who, I must be totally honest, am not sure, he was – a bodyguard?). Ian had visited many countries that we’d usually avoid visiting, seen things that we’d never want to see and this all has affected him in great ways – he was dangerous and aggressive and also addicted to alcohol. Nevertheless, there was an immediate spark between Maddie and Ian and when the story takes us to the present times we see that they’re married and have a son Charlie. However, their marriage doesn’t look like a bed of roses and all signs point to domestic violence.
My main problem was that I simply couldn’t connect with the characters and the plot. It felt as if the first – and very huge – part of this book was an introduction, and then came the sudden end that, at least for me, wasn’t that surprising. Yes, the writing style was beautiful and lyrical almost and it had me under its spell but I wasn’t hooked to the story itself. The characters were not likeable, and I know, you don’t have to like the characters to enjoy the book, of course you don’t have to, but here it simply didn’t work like that – I still need some kind of emotional depth, foothold, I want to be able to immerse myself in the story and characters’ lives, no matter if they’re likeable or not – and I missed this here.
There was a lot happening in this story but still it felt too superficial to me. I’ve never connected with the characters, haven’t been on the same wavelength with them and I mostly felt impatient with the way the story was built. It touched upon many heavy and difficult issues, and I always appreciate that, of course. There were lies, toxic friendship, secrets and also murder, and the author has presented us with the terrifying accounts of the civil wars in different places of the world as well. There were some twists and turns on the way but they didn’t blow me away – and honestly, the unravelling of all of them and the secrets has been overshadowed with presenting the reader with tons of information that, as it turned out, were simply not necessary. Nevertheless, it was interesting psychological story. It was descriptive, and written in a beautiful writing style, with complex – maybe too complex – plot and full of flawed characters. Even if it didn’t work for me it might be a perfect read for you, so just give it a go.