I have long been a fan of Tammy Cohen’s writing, laced with humour as it always is makes a refreshing change from the reminders of how miserable everyone is in many a psychological thriller. This book is no different and even better it is set in an office, somewhere a good proportion of us spend our days and the author’s sharp eye (and pen) hasn’t missed a single detail to twist into something quite sinister.
‘I thought it would be good today to go round the table and for each of us to say one thing you think could improve the performance of this department.’
What was this, circle time?
The problem is that Gill the Manager of the department where Paula, Ewan, Amira, Sarah & Chloe work at Mark Hamilton Recruitment, has been ‘let go’ and a new boss Rachel Masters has been employed in her place to turn things around. It’s clear right from the start that she means business.
‘I just wanted to welcome you…’
‘Is it normal for the entire staff to take a two-hour lunch break?’
Rachel didn’t look up and Paula was conscious of her smile shrivelling on her lips.
‘No. We were just…’
‘Can you call everyone together, please? I’d like to have a few words.’
‘Of course. Out on the main floor?’
Finally Rachel glanced up at Paula from eyes of the palest blue offset by spiky black lashes. Paula felt her cheeks burning.
‘Well, unless we sit on each other’s laps, we’re hardly about to squeeze seven people in here, are we?’
Unless you have been incredibly lucky in your working life, some of the scenes set in the office will be only too familiar as Rachel Master’s plan to divide and conquer are put into force with relative ease.
But, this isn’t simply a story about office life, there is another, darker, strand to the tale set in America where Dr Anne Cater (book bloggers will probably recognise this name as a member of our community) is looking back at a distressing case early in her career as a psychologist. The narration by Anne is chilling because the subject is that of two young children and a different kind of office politics in the world of US academia.
With the narration in the recruitment agency being given by the different members of the team, in the hands of a lesser author the characters could easily have merged into one, but Tammy Cohen cleverly keeps them distinct and as in any team there are definite winners and losers, with Rachel’s appearance easily breaking the superficial bonds that previously existed between them all. Suddenly there is an ‘I’ in team! So it only takes a team bonding weekend for the cracks to widen into a chasm, and prove what I’ve always known, in that these sessions should be avoided like the plague! With everyone suspicious of each others motives the action ramps up to a whole different level, and the purpose of the two separate strands we are being told is revealed.
I raced through the book, the short chapters urging me on to read just a little bit more, to find out exactly when the tension that had been built was going to snap, all the while I was entertained by characters that were instantly recognisable and discovering the truths that those of us who work in offices deny. I loved this book, the setting was inspired, the two stories fascinating and the characters well-defined and entirely believable – Tammy Cohen has done it again!
But that wasn’t all my disappointment that the book was done was turned around when I got to the end and read the acknowledgements and saw this – thank you Tammy!!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Random House UK who allowed me to read a proof copy of When She Was Bad; this review is my unbiased thank you to them and to Tammy Cohen who kept me hooked to each and every word. When She Was Bad will be published on 21 April 2016.
If you haven’t read any of Tammy Cohen’s previous books (she used to write as Tamar Cohen) here is a list – I am making a mental note to read The War of the Wives, without further delay – but I unreservedly vouch for each and every one of the rest in this list!
Whenever I have a new book out, I wait for Cleo’s review. They’ve become a sort of book right of passage. Love them! https://t.co/PAMRwt0UqW
— Tammy Cohen (@MsTamarCohen) April 15, 2016