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Good Bad Girl


Good Bad Girl

Alice Feeney, the bestselling author of psychological thrillers such as ROCK PAPER SCISSORS and HIS & HERS, returns with GOOD BAD GIRL. This latest suspense novel reminds readers that sometimes bad things happen to good people, so good people have to do bad things. It’s just a question of how bad every good girl is willing to be. The answer, according to Feeney, is quite, quite bad.

I wished my daughter would disappear and now someone has taken the baby.” Twenty years ago, a mother lost one of the only things you cannot replace: the daughter she carried for nine months, who vanished from her stroller in the hands of a mysterious kidnapper. “I will never see her again and it is all my fault,” the woman thinks. “Because I know who has stolen her. And I know why.” It is Mother’s Day, her first and her last.

"[Feeney] employs her signature talent for keeping readers on their toes, delivering shocking revelations at the end of short, fast-paced chapters and always saving the darkest secrets for last."

Now, 20 years later, Feeney introduces four other women suffering through uncomfortable Mother’s Days. First we meet Frankie, whose teenage daughter went missing a year ago after an explosive fight about her father’s identity. Frankie, who works in a prison library and lives on a houseboat, maintains her sanity --- and buries her grief --- by sticking to a strict routine dictated by her OCD. She may not know where her daughter is, but she knows the exact number of steps that get her from morning to miserable, lonely night. If she sticks to exactly the same routine, her daughter will always know where to find her.

Meanwhile, across town, 18-year-old Patience gears up for her overworked, underpaid job at Windsor Care Home, which feels a lot more like a prison than a home to its wealthy elderly residents. Patience is accustomed to the meager pay and back-breaking, often demoralizing work, but given her age and the fact that she is working under an assumed name, she can’t complain. Pretending to be Patience, she knows, will help her find out who she really is. She just has to be patient.

There is one highlight of her job: Edith Elliot, Windsor’s spunkiest and liveliest resident. Sharp as a tack and every bit as likely to hurt someone, Edith was recently forced into staying there when her selfish daughter tricked her into signing over power of attorney and leaving her beloved home for a life of cold, flavorless food, doddering companions and a total loss of freedom. Luckily for Edith, she has grown close to Patience, who she has nicknamed Ladybug and who regularly sneaks in treats from the outside world and visits from her beloved dog, Dickens. Patience also has promised to help Edith escape.

Then there’s Edith’s daughter, Clio, an anxious and uptight therapist whose devotion to her perfect house borders on obsession. Clio regrets Edith’s placement in Windsor but is aware that her mother isn’t the angel she claims to be. Their relationship is strained, to say the least, and while Clio wouldn’t wish the worst on Edith, she knows that she cannot cohabitate with her either. That said, her care is getting increasingly expensive, and Clio’s bank account is dwindling. She hopes that she can strike a deal with the care home manager, Joy, but the woman’s name is a complete misnomer. Clio is not the only one who loathes every interaction with her, especially when her sneering veneer seems to hide some dark, violent activity at the esteemed care home.

These four “good girls” are brought together when Joy is brutally murdered on the same day that Patience is fired and Edith goes missing. Given the fact that none of the women should know one another or share any motives or ambitions, it seems unlikely that the three events are linked. Yet, when a detective shows up to investigate the homicide and Edith’s disappearance, she immediately determines that there are “three suspects, two murderers, and one victim.” All four women seem like standard “good girls,” but each has done something bad to get them on this list.

Alternating between each woman’s actions in the days immediately following the murder, Feeney demonstrates the hidden but unbreakable bonds tying them not just to each other, but to the initial kidnapping 20 years ago. She employs her signature talent for keeping readers on their toes, delivering shocking revelations at the end of short, fast-paced chapters and always saving the darkest secrets for last.

Feeney loves an untrustworthy protagonist, and her audience loves reading about them. In each of her characters, most notably Edith, she has given them exactly what they want: lying individuals with goals that they will stop at nothing to achieve. In this, GOOD BAD GIRL is a good Alice Feeney book, but her reliance on coincidence dampens this otherwise razor-sharp reading experience and takes away from its very poignant meditations on motherhood (and daughterhood). Readers of Feeney’s chilling, psychologically daunting thrillers will agree with her characters that sometimes you can be both good and bad.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on August 25, 2023

Good Bad Girl
by Alice Feeney