Real Bad Things
reviewed by Fiona Cook
Twenty-five years ago, Jane Mooney confessed to murdering her stepfather – but with no body, the police decided not to charge her. She’s spent those years as far as she could get from her hometown of Maud, along the banks of the Arkansas River.
But nothing stays lost forever, and when a flood brings Warren’s body back to the attention of the living, Jane finally heads home, to deal with the past, and with the family she thought she’d left behind forever.
Kelly J Ford does an uncomfortably good job at portraying the claustrophobia of small towns, where everyone knows your business and gossip runs faster than any official media could keep up with. It wasn’t just Jane who was there on that fateful night, but her confession kept the others out of the limelight, leaving her as the one to bear the attention and the whispers. As soon as she sets foot in Maud, the reader is pulled along with her, and you can almost feel the whispers and the sidelong looks as she does.
Real Bad Things unfolds between the present and the past, and it doesn’t take long to see that there’s much more to the story than Jane initially admits to. As complicated as the past situation might be, it’s the current timeline of the book where the author really unleashes her talent for intricate storytelling. Each character has developed over time, in ways that might be surprising, but that feel true to them as the reader gets to know them.
With layers of storytelling portraying generational trauma, small towns and the unbearable confines their scrutiny can place on anyone who feels different, and the unbreakable bonds that adversity can forge, Real Bad Things is sometimes a hard read, but always an excellent one. Readers looking for slow burn mystery with unforgettable characters and an unforgettable atmosphere will find here exactly what they need.a