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