Thursday, July 26, 2018

Book Review: BAD

Title: Bad
Author: Chloe Esposito
Publisher: Dutton Books
Pages: 384
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Bad is book 2 of a trilogy that begins with Mad and ends with Dangerous to Know. All three are apt descriptions of Alvina “Alvie” Knightly who is whacko, with no sense of morals, and you’d better hope you don’t ram into her, because there’s no telling what she’ll end up doing.

The prologue, helpfully called Disclaimer by the narrator, Alvie, is where she brings us up to speed on what happened in the first book, and simply absolves herself of guilt. Basically, what we learn is that Beth, her twin sister, invited her over to her palatial house in Sicily, and told her to pretend to be Beth for just one night, so she, Beth, could spend the night with her lover, Salvatore.  But then the two sisters fought and Beth fell into the swimming pool and drowned.

That one accidental death leads to Alvie killing Beth’s underworld don of a husband, Ambrogio, who was also Alvie’s ex, and then Salvatore. And then she sleeps with one of Ambrogio’s hitmen, Nino. They commit a heist together, but then Nino ups and leaves with the money, 2 million euros, and a Lamborghini, leaving Alvie alone in a hotel room, high and dry and penniless.

And all this before this book has even properly begun.
Thus begins Alvie’s second first-person recounting of her deceit and deception. She tells us that she will do whatever it takes to torment and kill Nino in a supreme act of revenge. But first she might just sleep with him. Because that’s the kind of crazy she is.

Meanwhile, Alvie is now on the run, except that the police think that the body they have found is hers, and that Beth is absconding. So Alvie has to pretend to be Beth, while pursuing her plan of revenge. 

There’s an added challenge. Ambrosio’s other key hitman, Domenico, thinks Beth killed his boss, and so he wants some sweet revenge of his own. So Alvie finds herself in the happy situation of being chased by both cops and mobsters alike.

There’s yet another challenge. She will be able to kill Nino, only if he doesn’t kill her first. Which seems more likely.

Nino, always a few steps ahead, despite the app she installed to track his phone, sends her a message that if she manages to catch him, they just might work together.

How many soups will she get into before she succeeds in avenging herself? You can read the book to find out, if you think you can stomach it.

The chapters are helpfully named The Traitor, The Thief, The Puppy, The Nun, The Hooker, The Cop, and The One, the series of characters she meets along her quest to kill Nino. None of these characters are crucial to Alvie’s story, though they do assume a larger-than-life aura for a while.

Nino himself leads her along on a merry chase that takes her to Romania and back to Italy.

The events of this book happen pretty quickly, in the space of just a week, though the flashbacks date back to Alvie’s childhood.

Alvie is quite cool about the kind of person she is. She admits that she has shoplifted, and committed arson and embezzlement. But she was never a killer. That was a talent she discovered in Book 1, Mad.

Of course, she has her own problems. Her own mother, Mavis, has always loved her twin, Beth, much more than her.

I found Alvie sociopathic, and totally demented. She has a weakness for Prada merchandise and is rather superficial in a number of ways, not to mention the fact that she is absolutely amoral and is willing to indulge in any number of dubious pursuits, as long as they promise pleasure.

She is a classic sociopath. She doesn’t think about situations properly. In fact, she even hears the voice of her dead twin in her head. She often makes stupid decisions. At one point, she tries to convince a woman to sell her little dog, and steals it when the woman refuses. When the dog goes poo-poo in her Prada bag, she changes her mind about the dog.

But what makes her endearing is the fact that she gets into more trouble than she ends up dishing out. Not good if you’re planning on becoming an assassin in the long term, which is what she aspires to be.

She is terribly accident prone, and the most ridiculous of things keep knocking her down. For instance, she goes to a tattoo artist to get “Die, Nino” tattooed on her butt of all the places. The artist ends up tattooing “Die, Nemo,” which is just as well because that spelling mistake might just save her life at some point.

She does have a great sense of humour though.

The reason I’m rambling on so much about Alvie, instead of discussing the plot at all, is because the book is all Alvie. Every irrational decision of hers, every stupid, unthinking act, is magnified, affecting random, innocent people who just happen to be walking by, but also wreaking havoc upon her life.

I thought Alvie was fun, but there were a lot of elements in the book that I found OTT and distasteful. There is a lot of sex, a lot of it unnecessary, drinking, substance abuse and violence, all in a day’s work for Alvie who finds herself warming to her new situation and to the sense of wanton power it fills her with.

What Bad has going for it, apart from the aptly-named Bad Alvie, is the plot; minor plot elements that we’ve nearly forgotten about pop up to prove their usefulness when you least expect them to.

I’m glad I plodded through the book though. The ending was worth the plodding.

(I received an ARC from First to Read).



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