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  • review by Paul Burston

Good Me Bad Me

Debuts don’t come much darker than this. Narrated by fifteen year-old Milly, whose mother is awaiting trial for the murder of nine small children, Ali Land’s novel centres on a mother-daughter relationship so steeped in abuse, the daughter carries the scars with her in more ways than one.

We first meet Milly as she’s giving evidence on which the case against her mother will rest. Then she’s being rehoused with a foster family. On the surface, psychologist Mike and wife Saskia are the ideal couple of take Milly on. But their teenage daughter Phoebe has other ideas and it soon becomes apparent that this isn’t quite the happy family unit Milly was led to expect.

There are shades of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ in the central mother-daughter relationship and in Milly’s treatment at the hands of her classmates. But this is a startlingly original thriller. Milly is a compelling narrator – wise beyond her years, highly sensitive, clearly damaged and not entirely reliable. A question mark hangs over how complicit she was in her mother’s crimes. There are times when she even questions herself. But is this simply survivor’s guilt?

Land takes us inside Milly’s head without giving too much away, keeping us guessing right up until the final chapter. It’s deliciously dark and deeply engrossing – so much so that you won’t want to put it down. There aren’t many books I can honestly say I read in one sitting. This is one of them. Brilliant stuff.

Penguin, £7.99

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