Review: When She Was Bad

Review: WHEN SHE WAS BAD, Tammy Cohen, published by Black Swan

There are many styles of crime books. I tend to write historical and spy thrillers, others write gritty, noir contemporary crime, some stick to psychological suspense, or to straightforward cosy stories. I am always keen to find a book that is a little different, one that has the ability to jerk me out of my normal reading rut.

Welcome to Tammy Cohen!

This is a thriller that has all the more punch because it’s set in such a parochial landscape: the office. It begins with the sacking of Gill, a popular manager, but one who’s been “coasting during the last couple of years.” The business has suffered, and the business owner wants to shake things up, bring in a new manager. The one he picks, Rachel Masters, is known to be very ambitious, and doesn’t suffer dead weight. She looks about the team and begins to review and assess all of them, feeding those who share ambition, making clear that time management is vital, and setting the team against one another.

The story is told from the perspective of the individual team members, each with their own fears and issues. Some are worried about money and the cost of the mortgage, while others are fretting over childcare and partners. All have their own little secrets, but someone has a larger one.

In America, a psychologist who had investigated a hideous case of child cruelty some years before, is told to turn on her TV. There has been a terrible killing in England. She knows that she holds the clue. She has expected this to happen.

This story is very familiar to anyone who has worked in a large company. The petty jealousies, the attempts to clamber up the greasy pole by standing on the heads of others, the little cruelties and jibes, all ring horribly true, and with the story told from the perspective of each of the members of the team, it’s all too easy to immerse yourself in the story. You will recognise the types, you will recognise the environment.

Hopefully you won’t recognise the ending!

This is a brilliantly well-crafted story, with beautifully observed scenes and characters. I found it utterly gripping in a way that few psychological books have achieved with me.

I’d give it five stars out of five and recommend it to anyone.

2 Responses to “Review: When She Was Bad”
  1. Ida Umphers says:

    Thanks for this recommendation/review. Just ordered a copy.


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