Sweet Pea by C. J. Skuse

The Blurb On The Back:

Rhiannon Lewis might seem like the average girl next door, but she’s got a killer secret.

Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhiannon’s celebrity has dwindled.  By day her job at a newspaper is demeaning and unsatisfying.  By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s wedding plans whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.

From the man at the supermarket who mishandles her apples, 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 …

You can order SWEET PEA by C. J. Skuse from Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

21 years ago Rhiannon Lewis was the sole survivor of a nursery massacre, an experience that left her with a serious brain injury and unable to speak at all for some time but which also turned her into a minor celebrity, winning Child of Courage and Pride of Britain awards.

Now aged 27, Rhiannon lives in a west country town with her boyfriend Craig and chihuahua Tink but with a new year approaching, she isn’t satisfied with her life.  She’s just found out that Craig is having an affair with Lana Rowntree, a 24 year old sales rep at the regional newspaper that Rhiannon works for (and which she’s desperate to get onto a reporter’s course for), she doesn’t really like her friends (the PICSOs – People I Can’t Shake Off – who are all into husbands and babies), and she has a murder list of people who’ve annoyed her and need to die. The thing is though, Rhiannon acts on her murder list – going out at night to deliberately entice sex pests and would-be rapists to try and attack her and then despatching them in brutal ways.

So far, the police are unaware that there’s a serial killer on their patch and Rhiannon has her urges under control.  But the year is young and the aggravations ever growing and there’s only so much that a woman can take …

C J Skuse’s black comedy thriller (the first in a trilogy) is a shockingly entertaining and sweary read with Skuse making you root for the damaged and homicidal Rhiannon while at the same time being horrified by some of her actions.  I did find some of the support Rhiannon gets a little difficult to believe and there were a couple of moments where the pace was slow but it’s an entertaining read with a great cliff hanger and I’ll be reading on.

Rhiannon is a brilliant anti-hero – damaged, violent, manipulative and cunning – she’s great at playing people around her but even though she thinks she has nailed down the ability to pass for normal, there are moments when she realises that she hasn’t fooled everyone and it’s interesting to see her reaction to those people.  I completely believed in her work frustrations and the office scenes – particularly Rhiannon’s growing flirtation with visiting Australian student AJ is really enjoyable – and I enjoyed how they torment the awful Linus who takes credit for Rhiannon’s work.

Skuse packs a lot of black humour in this book and Rhiannon is fantastically sweary, which I loved.  Also great is Skuse’s depiction of female rage and the way she slowly reveals facts about Rhiannon’s background – especially the relationship with her father and estranged sister, Seren and it does create a mystery for the reader as to whether Rhiannon is genetically homicidal or whether it was caused by her brain injury.

The plot is a little slow at times (although still entertaining) and there was a development that I didn’t quite believe where someone discovers Rhiannon’s activities but doesn’t react as you would expect (and their reasons for doing so felt a little contrived).  There are also some genuinely shocking moments, especially at the end when Skuse leaves the book on a cliff hanger that’s both horrifying and really sad, and although I thought they worked to remind people of how awful her crimes really are.

All in all, I thought this was thoroughly enjoyed this mash up of BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY and HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and although it won’t be for everyone, I will definitely be reading the sequel.

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