Possibly the first thriller I’ve reviewed on my blog, this twisted but well crafted plot deserves the premiere position. The pacing kept me tightly bound to the story even through the recent… er, current… election dramas. Quite a feat for any book, Annie Ward kept me wrapped up until the shocking and unexpected end.

The book has the perfect beginning for this past year. “Should I see a therapist?” types the protagonist Maddie. The Google search for 2020, it sets the mood for the rest of the book. A damaged mother is trying to protect those she loves, even if it harms. This book has plenty of dysfunction, betrayal, physical and mental trauma… and a grisly murder scene of course.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

While the tendency for the storyline to jump back and forth between periods of time can be disconcerting, it’s definitely worth sticking with it.

Bouncing across time and space, from the Balkans to my own Kansas City, the book is an adventure for curious arm chair travelers who want to get a taste of the Soviet Bloc without the commitment. I especially love the Kansas City she portrays. I’d missed the fact that she is a Kansas City resident as I read. From her love and attention to detail I knew she must have at least been through here.

Tonight I got to meet her on Zoom and found out we were probably within 20 minutes of each other. When COVID is past maybe we can have coffee and I can pick her brain for more details about her real life time in the Balkans, my absolute favorite parts of the book.

Highly recommended for anyone looking for a fast paced thriller that explores our emotional dynamic along with the external clues that something is not right. This book will lead the reader on a riveting ride that will not let go until the unexpected ending—I did not see coming! A perfect read for this year of dysfunction, Beautiful Bad will have you questioning what it would take to crack up… and the answer may be less than you think.

By Angela Yuriko Smith

Angela Yuriko Smith is a third-generation Ryukyuan-American, award-winning poet, author, and publisher with 20+ years in newspapers. Publisher of Space & Time magazine (est. 1966), two-time Bram Stoker Awards® Winner, and HWA Mentor of the Year, she shares Authortunities, a free weekly calendar of author opportunities at authortunities.substack.com.

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