If there’s one thing I love curling up with on a Saturday morning, it’s an irresistibly plotted psychological thriller. One that spins a web of lies and secrets and keeps my mind fully engaged with one simple yet vexingly complex question: how do we feel about the baddie, and will they get what’s coming for them?
It’s the beauty of psychological thrillers that they color in shades of grey. That they make us question our own moral compass… just a bit. Give us enough to love (redeeming factors) about a baddie, and suddenly we find ourselves rooting for them.
English teacher Teddy Crusher is the morally ambiguous (ahem, corrupt) protagonist of this story, and, no, I did not end up rooting for this dude (just needed to make that clear before you guys send help). But there are a few more (potentially) unlikeable people in this narrative. A bunch of them. More on that later. Lactose-intolerant Teddy celebrates his successes with a glass of milk (never knew milk could give me the creepy shivers) and has an approach to teaching that makes me glad I’m out of high school.
“Entitlement has a particular stench. Pungent, bitter. Almost brutal.”Samantha Downing
Teddy teaches at an elite boarding school (Belmont Academy), and really, he hates most of those entitled little shits. So why not teach one or fifty of them a lesson (after all, it’s for their own good) by messing with their grades and thus their GPA. He’s got his own sick little reward and punishment system.
“Someone has to save the kids. It’s for their own good.”Samantha Downing
But Teddy doesn’t stop at messing with his students. If a colleague seems too high-strung? Well, Teddy’s got a way to fix that, too. When one of Teddy’s interventions backfires, leading to an accidental death and the charging of one of his favorite students with their murder, it’s up to Teacher of the Year Teddy (he’s got the plaque hanging in his classroom to prove it) to fix things.
Teddy’s point of view (in the third person) is not the only one readers get to follow, and the head-hopping means we always get to experience the story from the character who’s got the most to lose — the suspense is heart-stopping! Like watching a movie. For Your Own Good is a total popcorn thriller! Teenager Zach is another character who tells the story, and here’s where I return to unlikable characters who become likable. You want to dislike privileged, white, rich kid Zach. He’s on Teddy’s eternal shit list (trust me, it’s a place you don’t want to be). The kind of kid who gives teachers engraved Montblanc pens for Christmas. But then, you can’t help but warm to Zach and his good intentions. Zach is best friends with the accused (Courtney), and while he doesn’t set out to clear her name (this is not a YA story), he goes to lengths to not let her down.
I’ve been a fan of Downing’s books since her debut, My Lovely Wife. There’s something exceptional about the level of complexity Downing weaves with both her dark and twisted plots and those deliciously dark and twisted characters. Hairs-on-neck raising stuff. With For Your Own Good, she’s established herself as one of my must-read domestic suspense authors.
One of my top-ten thrillers of 2021.
Book: For Your Own Good
Published: Michael Joseph
Publication Date: July 20th, 2021
Penguin Random House kindly sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion, rating, or the content of my review.