*Disclaimer: I received an ARC of the book via NetGalley from the publisher. If you’d like to read my Review Policy, click here.*
The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…
I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.
Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.
A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.
Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…
I’ve only read C.J. Skuse’s YA work before (The Deviants is mind-numbingly awesome, btw) but this is definitely, resolutely, ABSOLUTELY an adult book. Crude in places, laugh out loud black comedy in others; it’s a read that will divide the masses and shock those of a more sensitive disposition.
As you’ll know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’m a pretty big fan of crime fiction and psychological thrillers, my general rule of thumb being: the more disturbing, the better. When I read crime, thriller or psychological horror books, I want to be shocked, I want to be challenged and I want to be creeped out. Sweetpea hits all of these notes, but in a totally refreshing and completely different fashion to anything I can remember reading recently.
Sweetpea is the inner monologue of aspiring journalist Rhiannon, a twenty-something who writes minor articles for a small town newspaper publicly and lists of all the people she’d like to kill privately. As I’ve come to expect from Skuse, the writing is tip-top and the characterisation is on point. I loved the inwardly focused narration style and I couldn’t help but identify with Rhiannon on some levels despite her clear and absolute lack of empathy and psycopathic tendancies, which is a feat of achievement in itself.
The first person perspective and intensely private narration style makes for a claustrophobic ride, and Rhiannon’s narcissistic personality will have people either squirming uncomfortably or laughing along with a character who, whilst clearly a psychopath, is darkly comic and sharply satirical. That’s the thing about this book, y’know. I started it expecting something that was going to make me scared to turn off my bedside lamp at night, and although it did do a little bit of that, what it did more was make me laugh. For anyone who has been stuck in a job that they hate, for anyone who has been in a relationship that has gone stale, for anyone who feels like they just need a little bit more, this unconventional book will rensonate in unexpected ways.
The book reads as half monologue and half mystery, with the reader wondering where indeed the story is heading. When the twist comes at around 75% of the way through, it’s well judged and entertaining in its mad genius, but it does take a bit of slogging to get there. The diary entry narrative style lends itself to the vibe of the story and the development of the central character perfectly, but the book could easily be one hundred pages or so shorter and much punchier for it. Personally, I would have liked to see slightly more action and slightly less detail of Rhi’s day-to-day life after reaching the second half of the book.
Sweetpea is a bold, self-deprecating take on the crime genre. It’s strange and funny, dark and crude, and nothing less than I’d expect from a fearless author like Skuse. For the right reasons or the wrong ones, this is a character and a book that will stick with you long after turning the last page.
Stars out of five:
- Publisher: HQ
- Pages: 384
- Publication Date: 20th April 2017
- For fans of: thriller/crime/psychological novels and books that have surprises on every page.