Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward
Published By: Quercus Books
Buy It: here
What The Blurb Says:
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?
What I Say:
Beautiful Bad is a novel that many might classify as a psychological thriller, a page turning, shocking, twisty, turny book that asks you to try and work out what really happens. It is all those things, but it is also something much more complex. It is an acute and intricate observation of the effects of conflict and PTSD on a relationship, how the realities of being in a war torn environment has consequences not only for those who served, but also for all those who love and live with them.
When a novel’s first chapter is titled ‘The Day of the Killing’, you are immediately aware that something awful is going to happen – you just don’t know when and to whom…
Maddie and Ian are undeniably attracted to each other from the moment they meet. He is an ex-soldier, now working as a bodyguard in Europe, and Maddie is a travel writer who frequently visits her friend Jo, a woman who is determined to ensure that people get the humanitarian supplies they need whatever the cost. Unfortunately, it transpires that Ian is currently in a relationship with a woman called Fiona, and Maddie knows she cannot get involved.
The novel switches between time lines and moves backwards and forwards. From before Maddie and Ian were a couple, to when they were, to the Day of The Killing. I have to admit, I did find the switching between timelines a little confusing at times, but, it makes you pay attention and this is certainly a novel that commands your attention at all times.
As Maddie and Ian edge ever closer, Jo makes it very clear that she is not happy about the relationship and does everything in her power to keep them apart. When they cannot fight their attraction any more, Jo seemingly massively overreacts and Ian and Maddie are cut out of Jo’s life. It may seem like they have finally got what they wanted, but it is then that Annie Ward starts to slowly drop little hints into the plot that Ian may not be as perfect as he seems.
He and Maddie initially stay at a beautiful hotel, wrapped up in each other in the first wonderful days of their relationship, but when Maddie wants to go out to the bakery, Ian becomes extremely agitated. He convinces Maddie to stay in, with her believing that it comes from a place of love as oppose to anything more sinister. This is when the alarm bells start to ring…
When we later learn that Maddie has had an accident while away with Ian, that has left her with serious facial injuries and no memory as to how it happened, the seeds of doubt are further subtly sewn in our minds. How far can we trust Ian – really.
This sense of things not being quite right seems to form the basis of their marriage, as Ian’s work constantly takes him far away from Maddie. When she gives birth to their son Charlie, the idyllic life she had pictured for the three of them is very far from the reality of her day to day existence. Ian’s prolonged absences and intermittent communication give Maddie time to think about what is happening, and strengthens the bond between herself and Charlie so they become a tight insular family unit..
Alone, isolated and overburdened, Maddie finds that her sessions with Therapist Cami J are the very thing that will help her understand the complicated reality of her relationships with Ian and Jo. Little by little, Maddie starts to come to the conclusion that she needs to do something to stop the creeping fear that permeates her days and increasingly her nights.
From the moment Maddie starts therapy, all the events prior to arriving in her home, and what she discovers when she moves in there, slowly and deliciously start to unravel. As we head towards the shattering conclusion (still am not telling you what is going to happen!), the novel picks up its pace and finally reveals the uncomfortable truth underneath the beautiful facade which has been so purposely constructed by Ian and Maddie.
Beautiful Bad is a clever and well paced story, that works by serving to unnerve us and make sure we never quite know who to trust. It is a refreshing and smart take on the well versed psychological thriller, which Annie Ward has skilfully turned on its head and made us look at again with new eyes.
Thank you to Ella Patel at Quercus Books for my copy of Beautiful Bad in exchange for an honest review.