My rating: 1 of 5 stars
Length: 400 pages
Release date: 26 July 2018
She stole the life she wanted. Now someone wants to steal it back . . . Alvie Knightly may be waking up in the Ritz, but her life is no bed of roses. Firstly, she has the mother of all hangovers. Secondly, her beautiful, spoiled twin sister Beth has just been found dead in Sicily – and the police want Alvie for questioning. And thirdly, Alvie’s hot new boyfriend has vanished with every penny of the millions they stole from Beth. But he picked the wrong girl to mess with. Alvie will pursue her ex to Rome in a game of cat and mouse that only one of them can survive.
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned . . . But can Alvie get revenge before her crimes catch up with her?
‘Come on,’ he says. ‘Don’t be naive. You don’t think priests like transsexual hookers? This is 2015.’
I’m all for ‘live and let live’, but not only does Bad make a special effort at every turn to be provocative, the main character is a lot more into the ‘live’ part than the ‘let live’ part. That’s the diplomatic way of saying that she’s a crazy serial killer who I would never want to come across in real life. That said, Bad is an alright beach read if you can ignore Alvie’s raging lunacy, which to me feels lot like saying Mein Kampf is a decent political treatise if you ignore that Hitler wanted to kill all the Jews.
I guess I’ll state upfront the few good things I found in this novel: It’s the second in a trilogy but very easy to follow on its own, thanks to a detailed recap of the sex and murder that took place in the first book Mad. I also see on some level how Bad can be enjoyable provided that you turn your brain off and use it as catharsis. The outlandishness of the plot ensures that no sane reader will take the story seriously, thankfully so considering that, you know, the protagonist goes around stabbing, running over and burning mostly innocent people to death.
Alvie’s an extreme ‘love her or hate her’ character. I’m surprised by how many reviewers fell into the first category, because as you can probably tell I hated her. The real kicker, in my opinion, is that the author somehow believes that she’s written a feminist heroine.
Chloé Esposito goes on to say that ‘really strict, strident feminists will read it and think Alvie’s a bad feminist because she is using her sexuality to manipulate men.’ No, Chloé, she’s not a ‘bad feminist’ because she’s using her sexuality; she’s a stain on the word ‘feminism’ and an awful fucking human being because she’s a morally bankrupt, megalomaniac murderer.
Everything else is just the icing on a rotten cake. I couldn’t care less that Alvie fantasises about every man on two legs, but objectifying men still isn’t feminist. Lashing out at people because of mental health issues isn’t feminist either. Getting a free pass for murder is certainly not feminist but that’s where we are with Alvie. I would hate her just as much whether she was a woman, a man or non-binary because she’s simply a deplorable human being.
As a small mitigating factor Bad adds in lots of clunky flashbacks that paint Alvie in a more sympathetic (read: victimising) light, but guess what? Tons of people had shitty childhoods way worse than yours, Alvie, and the vast majority of them aren’t going Aileen Wuornos like you. At times it feels like Chloé Esposito herself isn’t sure whether she wants us to root for Alvie. The ambiguity does not work in the book’s favour. Either you’re on board with Alvie’s reign of terror or you’re not; she doesn’t have the depth to be an ambivalent character.
I’ll admit that at first the uninhibited craziness is somewhat fun, but after a while the constant cycle of sex, murder and uninspired flashback scenes becomes mind-numbing. And there’s a whole lot of all three, especially the sex. I don’t know why Bad isn’t marketed as erotica because it’s way more explicit than I care to read in my thrillers. That the author is, per the interview linked above, aware it’s bad sex doesn’t make it any more entertaining to read.
With Bad, I thought I’d be getting a psychologically suspenseful retelling of The Talented Mr. Ripley in the vein of Genuine Fraud and Social Creature. Instead, it was more L.S. Hilton’s Maestra trilogy. If that’s what you want to read, absolutely go for Bad–but if you prefer your protagonists to be people you can support without feeling disgusted, this one’s not for you.
*Thanks to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book! All opinions represented remain my own.*