Thank you to Harlequin UK for granting me a copy of C.J. Skuse’s Sweetpea via NetGalley in exchange for a review.
When she was good, she was very, very good. When she was bad, she was deadly.
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.
If Marmite were a book, it would be Sweetpea. You’ll either love it or hate it.
Sweetpea delves into the mind of psychopath Rhiannon as we follow her murderous exploits via her diary. I feel like this format allowed Rhiannon to become an oddly likeable character which makes us, the reader, very confused. Much like Arya Stark, Rhiannon has a ‘kill list’ which she recites in every new entry of her diary. Sometimes it ranges from dark and twisted thoughts to funny musings about this bloke she dubs ‘Creepy Ed Sheeran’ who she keeps spotting about town.
The problem with Sweetpea is that I just didn’t find it believable. While Rhiannon initially seemed like a female version of The Fall‘s Paul Spector (which I was SO here for), she quickly became campy and careless which isn’t what one wants from a serial killer. You spend a lot more time laughing at Rhiannon’s crude humour than caring about her kills, which also become lacklustre and a bit blink-and-you-miss it as the novel goes on. By the end, I was just so befuddled as to what was going on.
At the risk of possibly sounding mental, I’m someone who can find story’s following psychopaths very intriguing and I could see the potential in Sweetpea to be a dark and twisted female driven thriller. It’s such a shame that it turned into a weird sort of comedic-chick lit hybrid with added murder on the odd occasion. There was an attempt at a tragic backstory to justify Rhiannon’s acts, but I felt like it wasn’t explored enough. It got brushed off as ‘Oh, she had a traumatic childhood and this is why she wants to murder men, but isn’t she so funny!’ which only works if you fully take the time to develop it a la the sexual abuse scandal in The Fall. Too much emphasis was placed on the comedy.
All that being said, I found myself unable to put Sweetpea down. It was a bit like a car crash that you just can’t look away from. Wild and abhorrent, but addictive. I’m sure it’ll divide opinions once it’s released and I look forward to seeing what others will make of it.
I found it uniquely amusing, but I think I’ll stick to the psycho killing likes of Jamie Dornan’s Paul Spector. Likability in these kind of dark and deviant characters can be fine, but I found the focus was more on Rhiannon’s overwhelmingly primitive humour than any of the actual crime or thriller aspects of the novel.
For those who are looking for a female The Fall, I’d probably give this a miss and stick to the grittier thrillers. But if you’re a fan of funny chick lit with an edge, then I think that Sweetpea is just the novel for you!