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When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

March 31, 2016

 

 

YOU SEE THE PEOPLE YOU WORK WITH EVERY DAY.

 

BUT WHAT CAN’T YOU SEE?

 

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ….

 

Now, there’s something chilling in the air.

 

Who secretly hates everyone?

 

Who is tortured by their past?

 

Who is capable of murder?

 

Told in several voices, When She Was Bad is a psychological thriller that mixes the mundane, but quite often brutal, personal politics of office life with a truly dreadful child abuse theme.

Dr. Anne Cater, a child psychologist, still remembers the horrific case of child abuse she encountered at the start of her career and how she had to fight her boss to have her opinions heard. When her attention is drawn to a news report about a brutal murder, those memories come flooding back and she re-lives the key moments from the case.

Meanwhile, a group of office workers, each with their own problems, is thrown into disarray when their boss is sacked and a new manager is brought in. Rachel, the power dressing new boss, is feared by the whole team and she deliberately sets about a power play strategy which simply serves to turn colleagues against each other.

Knowing that their jobs are far from secure the team find themselves isolated from each other, turning on former friends and adopting an ‘everyone for themselves’ approach.  The harder they try, the worse the tension in the office becomes. Trust disappears and fear rules. So when the team go away for a team bonding weekend, it’s not surprising when everything does not go quite to plan.

This is not an especially likeable set of people, but the office scenario is one that most people will recognise, especially in these days of downsizing and ‘efficiencies’. Tammy Cohen uses this situation to create tension amongst people who were previously friends and to look behind the masks of the workers to seek out their insecurities and expose their character flaws.

As we learn more about each character, we see how each one could be linked to the child in the scenario that Anne Cater has dealt with in her early career. Knowing that within the group there is a damaged individual capable of great harm helps to build the tension and turns an ordinary office situation into a dark and menacing environment.

I couldn’t work out who the bad ‘guy’ was, because each character had secrets and flaws that were revealed as their layers peeled away under the stress of Rachel’s manipulation.

An enjoyable read with good tension and excellent pace.

When She Was Bad is published by Black Swan on 21st April 2016

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