An aborted 911-call brings an officer to a quiet house, with signs of a struggle and blood. Lots of blood. A terrified child and two frightened, battered women, along with the dead husband of one of the women tell the same story: crazy, ex-military man snaps and tries to strangle his wife’s best friend, so his wife kills him in self-defense.
But to get the whole story, you must go back in time to when Maddie and Ian first met, back in the war-torn Balkans where she and Jo lived and worked and played, and Ian was a bodyguard. Back to when Maddie came home after 9-11 and struggled to start her life over, and Ian abandoned her for nine years. Back to their fledgling relationship and new marriage, when Ian wanted a quiet country life and Maddie wanted to travel and explore, and instead they had a baby. Back to that night in the forest camping, where Maddie was injured, but she doesn’t remember how.
Only by going back do you learn what happened now.
I finished reading this, but it was a struggle. Maddie is an unreliable—and for me, unlikable—narrator, and Jo is…erratic. So is Ian. Basically, none of the relationships in this story made sense to me. Obsession, maybe, dependence, surely, but love and caring? Nope. Didn’t see it. The ending is supposed to be a shock, but…it wasn’t. The signs are there all along and aren’t exactly subtle.
Annie Ward lived and worked in the Balkans, was a Fulbright Scholar, and now writes novels. Beautiful Bad is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Park Row via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)