Book review: When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan, Charlie and Chloe have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in.

This book started out very intriguing. It starts from the point of view of Anna, a psychology professor, who has received news of a tragedy that has happened across the pond in London and she knows the perpetrator.

The story then switches to the very mundane lives of Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan, Charlie and Chloe with all of them getting chapters from their own point of view. I will confess right up front that I dislike books with a lot of POVs. I don’t think it works in general as it is hard to connect with any of the characters on a deeper level if you only get to spend a few chapters with them.

No surprise, I didn’t think it worked in this book either. All the characters hate the new boss, Rachel, who is a real bully. She is completely unlikable, a real villain. And the coworkers all unravel under her horrible leadership. Except maybe Ewan, who instead tries to seduce his boss. I didn’t take a liking to any of the main characters except Anne, who is really a bit outside the story. She has her own story, which is set years ago when she first started out as a psychologist. I have to admit that her chapters are the ones I really liked reading and I found myself skim-reading the rest.

I liked the premise of the story – how much impact does the past have on you? – but it lacks in execution. There are several red herrings, which in and of itself is not a bad thing, but when the real perpetrator is revealed it feels a bit of a cop-out. Almost as if the author tried to be too clever and it didn’t work out.

At the end of the book I was so sick of all the whining and misery of the coworkers that I lost all interest in what happened to them. The epilogue was unnecessary, as Anna’s story was resolved in the end and that was what I cared about. I didn’t care at all about a potential new boss for the coworkers.

So in conclusion I cannot recommend this book.

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