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Sunday 28 April 2019

‘Beautiful Bad’ by Annie Ward

Published by Quercus Editions Ltd,
21 March 2019.
ISBN 978-1-8747-276-1 (HB)

This tale revolves round three strongly independent characters, two women and one chap, whose lives intersect intermittently over a period of nearly two decades. In 2001 the two young women, Maddie and Joanna, who have been best friends since they were students, find themselves working in countries that are next door to each other - Maddie in peaceful Bulgaria, and Joanna in Macedonia which is on the brink of war and is a very dangerous place to be.

Maddie clearly has a fascination with danger and has no problem with travelling into Macedonia to visit Joanna. Whilst she is there Ian - military background and now a member of the British ambassador’s close protection team - appears on the scene. Both girls fall for him, which not surprisingly causes a prolonged rift in their friendship.  Joanna and Ian end up hating each other, for a number of reasons.

Eventually, after several abortive meetings and a tempestuous reunion in New York in 2010, Ian and Maddie move to Maddie’s hometown of Meadowlark, a small town outside Kansas. They marry in 2012 and their son Charlie is born. But whilst Maddie craves excitement and travel, Ian loves the peace and quiet of Meadowlark. Gradually the couple become more and more incompatible. Basically, a kind and sensitive man, Ian suffers from PTSD.  He drinks too much which does little to endear him to his neighbours.  Suffocated by his memories and haunted by the violence in his past and the dreadful things he has witnessed, Ian has a fortress mentality and spends most of his time in his basement den where he feels safe.

Throughout the book episodes from the past alternate with a sequence of episodes that start with THE DAY OF THE KILLING and are followed by others detailing the weeks leading up to it.  An emergency call center receives an urgent call for help, but no details are given.  Who is dead? Who has killed them?  Will they kill again?  It would spoil the plot to reveal any of these details, but the felons may not be whom you expect.  The main characters in this book, especially Maddie and Ian are complex and damaged, neither through any fault of their own. They are exceedingly well portrayed, as is their stress-induced behaviour in the bars and clubs in areas waiting to be ravaged by war.  As psychological thrillers go, Beautiful Bad is horribly good.

Reviewer Angela Crowther.

Annie Ward has a BA in English Literature from UCLA and a MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first short screenplay, Strange Habit, starring Adam Scott was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award winner at the Aspen Film Festival. She has received a Fulbright Scholarship and An Escape to Create Artists residency. She lives in Kansas with her family. Lives in Kansas City with her family.
Angela Crowther is a retired scientist.  She has published many scientific papers but, as yet, no crime fiction.  In her spare time Angela belongs to a Handbell Ringing group, goes country dancing and enjoys listening to music, particularly the operas of Verdi and Wagner.

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