Readers need to be off-the-charts clever to figure out who’s going to kill whom in this disturbing first novel by the American writer Annie Ward ... By alternating narrators and tossing a couple of other dangerously spooky characters into the mix, the book keeps its readers eternally off balance, not a pleasant sensation but one that feels oddly just right for this strange novel.
A big, explosive novel, but it’s a heartfelt and highly personal one, too—and perhaps most importantly, it’s a novel with lots of disparate parts that work beautifully together ... certainly full of revelations and surprises, but I wouldn’t personally characterize this thriller as 'twisty' ... Ward is at her best when writing the emotional and psychological baggage that her characters carry with them every day, and this emotional depth more than compensates for any plot twists that you might see coming ... Brimming with emotion and authenticity, Beautiful Bad will equal parts thrill and haunt.
Annie Ward’s debut has all the familiar ingredients of the recent outpouring of psychological thrillers—dynamic but unreliable female narrators, a story that bounces between different characters’ perspectives, and secrets that remain buried throughout years of friendship or marriage—but it’s set apart by its unusual settings ... A twist in the closing pages will catch even the most jaded reader off guard, making Beautiful Bad a good read for fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and A.J. Finn.
The idea that two badly damaged people who filled up rooms with their worldliness, their big words, and their general aura of disdain would expect to find contentment in simple domesticity off the beaten path in Kansas strains credulity, even before murder comes to farm country. Still, the brilliantly conceived and presented conclusion would do Patricia Highsmith proud. Expect plenty of promotion, too, as this debut novel is being advertised as 2019’s The Woman in the Window.
The author in this case, Annie Ward, does create tension. However, the temperature doesn’t rise until the last third of the novel ... Perhaps the most grievous sin of a thriller writer is to leave loose threads hanging at the end, a sin Ward does not commit. In fact, she sews up everything by the final page, and she does it with such a terrific twist that it made me upgrade my initial opinion of the book. Although not a classic thriller, Beautiful Bad is like a good meal at a restaurant where the service is slow but, at the end, the owner offers you a delicious chocolate soufflé — on the house.
In this post–Gone Girl and –Girl on the Train world, any savvy reader knows that no narrator is ever remotely trustworthy, and no narrative that moves around in time is ever offering the whole story. Instead, the truth will be slowly dropped, piece by incomplete piece, into the reader’s lap until the final twist reveals all ... Shamelessly manipulative.