Review | When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

Convincingly toxic, but not my cup of tea. 3.5/5 stars.

When She was bad by tammy cohen

Thank you to Black Swan and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The blurb: 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?

My take:

There are quite a few characters to keep up with in this book and all of them are sad, stressed, exhausted and/or worried. Each chapter gives us the opportunity to swap between their point of views, but even this doesn’t provide any light relief. You only get a reprieve from one character whose life sucks, to be passed to one whose life sucks harder.

The original office group are mostly just clinging onto sanity when, into this joyful mix, comes the new boss. Quick to pit the employees against each other, she creates an atmosphere which is described by one of her subordinates as “toxic”. And “toxic” is the perfect word to describe my experience of this book which was like being trapped in the poisonous headspace of a group of miserable people. Add to this past descriptions of appalling child abuse and no, I can’t say I “enjoyed” reading this book.

However, I have to take my hat off to the author for the terrific job she does in creating this claustrophobic atmosphere and a group of characters whose personal and employment predicaments are entirely believable. Anyone who has ever worked in an office will recognise something in this book, whether it be the gossip machine or how quickly small things can become politicised or blown out of proportion.

The mystery element of the story is also well-handled. We are given just enough clues so we can keep up and make some educated guesses as to who is who, but there are also a few things you have no hope of guessing and come as surprises at the end. I did find the ending a little disappointing and underwhelming. After all the tension the author had built up between the characters, I was expecting some sort of tragic finale. Although this could just be because I found all the characters so unlikable I was hoping a few more of them would get bumped off!

Overall: fans of dark thrillers and mysteries should definitely pick up this book. Me? I’m off to re-read some Rainbow Rowell.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul








19 thoughts on “Review | When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

  1. I mentioned in my review too that it was a depressing atmosphere, but I do think she did really well keeping us guessing, there are usually no suspects in the picture or just the unsuspected one in the furthest corner in a novel, and I always find this easy to discover. I was kept in the dark here, I loved the multitude of suspects without it getting chaotic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I figured out one of the mysteries (who the eventual killer is) from a hint dropped fairly early on, but there were a couple of whopping things I didn’t figure out at all, so she did really well there. And, as I said, I have to give her lots of points for creating such a tense, nasty atmosphere. That was one of the reasons I was expecting everyone to die at the end!!


  2. I like that line “toxic but not my cup of tea.” Reminds me of my time in London in the mid 80s. What a great time to visit…it was my cup of tea with the beautiful parks and buildings and of course, tea time.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great Review Claire. This does sound dark as you mentioned on our WWW although quite depressing. I would read it though just to find out if I can identify some of those characters at my office lol. I hope your next books will be lighter and enjoyable at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: WWW Wednesday 13th July 2016 | Art and Soul

  5. Pingback: Review | In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware | Art and Soul

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