The one with the boss from hell

Tammy Cohen, When She Was Bad (2016)

I was sold on this book when Marina Sofia mentioned with enthusiasm this newly released thriller set in an ordinary workplace:

Kudos to the author for portraying so faithfully a place where targets, egos, ambitions, rivalries all are ripe fodder for resentment and murderous intent. A new boss soon creates a toxic atmosphere in a team in a recruitment consultancy. As distrust rises and tempers flare, matters are not improved by off-site bonding events (ah, yes, those dreaded things!).

I too wonder why crime stories aren’t set more often in the office, in those open floor plans where everybody watches everybody else’s movements, is pitted against each other, where nasty pieces of gossips are exchanged at the proverbial water-cooler, with lasting damages and collateral victims. In fact, for a while I wanted to write such a mystery, but every time I built up a twisted plot full of hidden manipulations and dark secrets, I heard something even worse at the water-cooler. So my story lay in smithereens (ah!), defeated by hard, cold reality (psss… I work in one of those open floor plans too).

Tammy Cohen’s book had me sitting at the edge of my seat for a good while, because I could relate so much with the toxic work environment. The boss in the book is somehow worse than the one in “The Devil wears Prada” (a reference as far as horrible bosses go). From very early on, she wants you to know that one of the main characters is a monster capable of violence, so you can’t help but watch everyone with distrust and fear. I loved how she built up the tension and the pace, even if the characters are slightly too archetypal.

The book is built on a dual narrative line, and unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the second one as much, which revolved around a horrific case of child abuse. I hadn’t seen the final twist coming, but the resolution felt a bit rushed to my taste. Despite some reservations, the whole experience was fun and I hope to read a few more office noirs instead of the now ubiquitous domestic noirs.

I received a free copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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