ALL SHE EVER WANTED - Patrick Redmond
If you're looking for a disconcerting psychological thriller, with the lead up to the crime as the focus of the story, ALL SHE EVER WANTED could be the book for you.
Tina was a weak, bullied, vulnerable child. Deserted by the father she adored, belittled by a mother that blamed her for everything that had gone wrong in her own life, Tina was a scrawny, ugly duckling child - the object of derision and cruelty by nearly everyone around her. Her only real emotional support, her aunt, tried to care for the girl that everybody else, if she was lucky, ignored. All she ever wanted was to be loved. Then Tina discovers that anger can be powerful. When the worm turns, it bites and suddenly Tina's not such a victim anymore - she's angry and she's hurt and she's very very controlled. Tina transforms into Chrissie, the classic ugly duckling to swan story, supplemented by her anger, Chrissie is always going to get in first with the cruel jibe, her anger never very far from the surface. Men desire her, people are scared of her. She's clawing her way into the fame and fortune that so many of her classmates vowed was for them, but never for Tina.
Unexpectedly, Chrissie falls in love, and she's simply not equipped to handle the feeling - she's scared, it threatens to undermine everything she's carefully crafted about herself. It makes her vulnerable and that's not a place where she wants to ever be again. Her life spirals out of control and the anger that she's used so much in the past to drag her out of bad places threatens to control her life totally.
ALL SHE EVER WANTED sounds like it could be a cliche looking for somewhere to live, but it's not. From the opening scene of the book - a couple of policemen talking about something awful; you know something's happened but you don't know what. We then go back through Chrissie's life, from her last childhood memory of her father, through the misery of her growing up years, into her escape from the bullying and her working life, through the transformation from ugly duckling to swan. You see her sudden realisation that she can control her own life, that conversion from victim to bully and the entire time, you're aware that something awful has happened but you don't know what. You don't know who the victim is, you don't know what the crime is and you have this sneaking horrible feeling that maybe, just maybe, Chrissie's done something dreadful. Once you do know what has happened, ALL SHE EVER WANTED keeps twisting right to the very last page. All the way through there's this increasing feeling of tension, growing with every step as Chrissie fights her way through life, as she meets the two men that will lead to the conclusion of the book.
The only thing that perhaps lets ALL SHE EVER WANTED down a little is that it's very dense, with a lot of dialogue and a lot of events that repeatedly show the same patterns of behaviour. Perhaps a little judicious cutting down of some of these scenes would have helped the pace even more, but the sense of creeping inevitability holds up well despite some short periods of exasperation with the padding. Chrissie's also not your average female character, maybe it's because she's been written by a man, probably, to this readers mind anyway, it's because she's not a stereotypical woman, even in the book her friends and colleagues give her a nickname of "Ballsy". What was really interesting about ALL SHE EVER WANTED is the way that it demonstrates the patterns of behaviour that people cling to - the victim becoming the bully, the damaged becoming the damager. Despite a couple of nagging minor issues with ALL SHE EVER WANTED, this was a good, creepy, disconcerting book, especially for people who aren't looking for a crime and resolution book.
Following a disturbed childhood, Christine is determined to be utterly self-reliant. But when love does enter her life, it threatens the new personality she has worked hard to create. Control must be maintained and love must be on her terms - no matter how dreadful those terms might be.