It has been sort of a dry spell for me when it comes to reading thrillers this year. Imagine my delight then when I came across Good Me, Bad me. All the reviews that I read, suggested that this was easily one of the best Psychological thrillers to hit the market this year. Words like dark, compelling, voice-driven were used. How could I ignore the temptations then. I put aside “The Santa Claus Man” and picked up Good Me, Bad me. Let’s find out how it went.
“Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.
But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.
When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.” – Amazon
“Forgive me when I tell you it was me.”
Narrated in first person by 15-year-old Milly, this book is about the impact of a dysfunctional household on children that grow up with it. It is a story of Milly who grew up with physical, emotional and sexual abuse at the hand’s of her serial killer mother. And then there is the story of Phoebe, who, thanks to the lack of love and attention at home, has grown up to be a bully who will stop at nothing when it comes to hurting people while still maintaining an appearance of innocence.
Milly struggles to come to terms with her past and her new reality. In spite of turning her mother in to the authorities to stop her from killing more children, she craves for love and approval of a mother that she never had.
“Beautiful, pure things make me feel ugly. Tarnished. I remember asking you when I was three, maybe four, where I came from. I waited for you to sweep me up, rub our noses together in an Eskimo kiss and reply, you came for me, you belong with me, I love you. But you didn’t respond, you walked out of the kitchen left me standing there alone”
When Mike and Saskia take in Milly as a foster child, Milly wants to fit in at any cost. Phoebe, Milly’s foster sister is not ready to share her parents love and attention with Milly and sets herself upon a mission to make Milly’s life miserable at school.
As Milly struggles to overcome her inner demons and ruthless bullying at school at the hands of Phoebe and her gang, things are not as perfect at the home front either. Saskia, battles with her depression, addictions, an extra-marital affair and an angry and bitter daughter. Mike, a psychologist by profession, is weighed down by hostilities between Saskia and Phoebe. While trying to maintain a truce on the home front, Mike must help Milly overcome her demons and prepare her for the trial.
Ali Land has delivered a deep, dark and twisted psychological thriller that is not only gripping but unsettling. It is hard not to sympathise with Milly who has gone through so much in her life and now must deal with uncertainty of her future and Phoebe’s torments. I could not stop myself from turning page after page.
Where do I begin. The writing style is not usual – the sentences are choppy and narration keeps shifting from monologue to dialogue but that is exactly what makes this a great read. These effects add to the character of Milly and keeps the reader wondering if they should or should not trust her.
I also loved the multi-faceted characters and how they develop in moments rather than in chapters. The expertise of the author in Mental Health as her profession oozes through her style of character development in the book.
I have to say that I kept expecting gruesome, gory details of the murders and exploitation to be revealed, but the author very skilfully navigated past that and yet was able to create moments that were spine-chilling. It is an absolutely commendable job of story telling and I am in awe of Ali Land for this.
For seasoned Thriller readers like myself, I felt that the books falls short towards the climax. I knew what was coming and hence missed the thrill of finding out the unknown. There were a few plot-holes but I conveniently ignored them because the writing style is immensely gripping. I wish there were lesser co-incidences in the story but I am quite happy with the book to complain too much.
After graduating from university with a degree in Mental Health, Ali Land spent a decade working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse in both hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia. Though a voracious reader from a young age and a keen observer of the world, it took Ali over thirty years to put pen to paper but she sure is glad she did! Ali’s debut novel Good Me Bad Me is an international bestseller and will be translated into twenty-three languages. It was short-listed for The Most Unreliable Narrator at the Dead Good Reader Awards, short-listed by the Crime Writers Association for the John Creasey New Blood Dagger and won Book Of The Year at Heat magazine Unmissables Awards. It’s also a New York Times Editors choice and a Richard and Judy book club pick. Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in London and is currently working on her second novel.
4 stars for sure! This book is not for the weak-hearted. Filled with details and moments that not all can stomach, the book is a stroke of genius. It has to be hands down best in its genre this year. Ali Land is a master creator of characters and twists and turns. Absolutely flawless in that department.
I don’t say this easily but I would love to watch this book made into a movie.
Run, don’t walk, to pick this one up. You won’t regret it!
Have you read Goode Me, Bad Me? Did you like it? Do let me know in the comments below.