‘Beautiful Bad’ by Annie Ward ⭐⭐⭐⭐



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 couples 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 a shocking crime.

But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?


Thank you to NetGalley, Quercus Books and Annie Ward for the chance to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

This absorbing psychological thriller begins with Maddie looking for a therapist ‘12 weeks before’ and then a chilling 911 call in which a woman pleads for help to hurry as a child shrieks in the background…

Maddie Wilson and her husband Ian live in Meadowlark, Kansas, with their three-year-old son Charlie. From the start we learn their marriage is strained and both also have their own personal struggles. Maddie is seeking out a therapist to work through the anxiety and panic attacks she’s had since a mysterious accident that left her scarred and settles on writing therapy with the unconventional Dr Camilla Jones. In these sessions she also begins to open up and details her fears due to Ian’s PTSD and her worries for their son’s safety.

As we’re taken between the different timelines we see the couple meet in the Balkans when Ian was a soldier and Maddie was teaching English to poor students. Her best friend Jo lived in Macedonia, where Ian was based, and the two met at a fundraiser there in 2001. At first Jo was the one to get close to Ian but then something changed and she warned Maddie not to trust him but their friendship ended when Maddie followed her heart instead of listening to her friend. The story doesn’t just focus on them as a couple but also talks about the things they went through separately that shaped the people they are today. In the present day both are damaged and pulled apart rather than together. Ian’s PTSD causes him to be volatile and rely on drink as a crutch, and Maddie’s anxiety causes panic attacks about disaster befalling her family constantly. She dreams of escaping with Charlie and feeling safe again.

The story is told from multiple points of view, although Maddie is the narrator we see the most. The Day Of The Killing is the present day but it isn’t until near the end of the book we learn who was killed and what happened that day. Instead we are given occasional glimpses of the gruesome crime scene, which are described in beautiful but macabre detail, as the first attending officer enters the house. I liked that the story was told in this way, it added a greater level of suspense and apprehension as I was always waiting for the next snippet of information about the crime and looking for clues as to who was the victim or perpetrator in the flashback timelines. I love guessing those kinds of things and seeing if I get the twist right or if I’ve been wonderfully mislead.

The characters in this book were strong and relatable, as were a lot of their problems. We haven’t all been in war torn countries but PTSD, anxiety and panic attacks are common, as are struggles in a relationship, the instinct to protect your child, and losing a close friend after falling out. I think anyone can find something to connect to in this book. I found myself relating to Maddie the most when she first realises Ian is struggling with PTSD and wonders how she missed his darkness. When we first fall for someone we all show our best side and it isn’t until later the less pretty things are revealed and by then we can be in so deep that we dismiss our fears and what our gut is telling us, making excuses that allow us to stay because we love them and want this to work. Also, am I the only one who found this book really funny at times? Usually because of something Maddie or Jo said or did.

Beautiful Bad is a phenomenal and enthralling novel that is gripping from the start. I had my suspicions from the start about the big twist but the author still shocked me with elements of the reveal and eerily haunting ending. Fabulously written and unputdownable this is a thriller you don’t want to miss.

Out March 21st

3 replies on “‘Beautiful Bad’ by Annie Ward ⭐⭐⭐⭐”

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