cover image Beautiful Bad

Beautiful Bad

Annie Ward. Park Row, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-7783-6910-3

This harrowing psychological thriller from Ward (The Making of June) begins with an aborted 911 call originating from the home that Ian and Maddie Wilson share with their three-year-old son, Charlie. Meadowlark, Kans., police officer Diane Varga responds to find the house silent, the phone smashed, and the kitchen bloody. Scenes detailing Varga’s search of the residence and the ensuing investigation alternate with flashbacks from Maddie and Ian’s perspectives. The couple chronicles the last 12 weeks, during which Ian was working private security in Nigeria and Maddie was in therapy for anxiety. They also reflect on key moments from their tumultuous courtship, starting with the couple’s first meeting in the war-torn Balkans, where Maddie was a Fulbright scholar and Ian served in the British military. Ward takes her time revealing what tragedy transpired in the present, heightening suspense and maximizing her devastating conclusion’s emotional impact. Evocative descriptions and strong senses of time and place complement the intricate, intelligent plot, which shocks and chills while thoughtfully examining trauma’s toll on people and their relationships. Agent: Madeleine Milburn, Madeleine Milburn Literary (U.K.). (Mar.)