wickedly funny | dark | sharp | a guilty pleasure
what it’s all about …
I have killed several people (some brutally, others calmly) and yet I currently languish in jail for a murder I did not commit.
When I think about what I actually did, I feel somewhat sad that nobody will ever know about the complex operation that I undertook. Getting away with it is highly preferable, of course, but perhaps when I’m long gone, someone will open an old safe and find this confession. The public would reel. After all, almost nobody else in the world can possibly understand how someone, by the tender age of 28, can have calmly killed six members of her family. And then happily got on with the rest of her life, never to regret a thing.
When Grace Bernard discovers her absentee millionaire father has rejected her dying mother’s pleas for help, she vows revenge, and sets about to kill every member of his family. Readers have a front row seat as Grace picks off the family one by one – and the result is as gruesome as it is entertaining in this wickedly dark romp about class, family, love… and murder.
A wickedly dark romp about class, family, love… and murder.
PUBLISHED: 22nd July 2021
SHELF: Fiction | Crime | Humour
AUTHOR: Bella Mackie
PUBLISHER: Borough Press
FORMATS: Hardback | Kindle | AudioBook
my review …
How To Kill Your Family has been on the receiving end of so many shining plaudits, that I was itching to get my hands on a copy. Both Cosmopolitan and Grazia magazines hailed it as one of their favourite books of 2021 … and now I know why. This is truly a guilty-pleasure book, whose incongruously bubble-gum pink cover belies the murderous intent and dark humour within. Extremely well-written, tightly plotted, and voiced by a sophisticated anti-heroine, this book enters the busy crime genre with a fresh, stylishly-shod stride. It takes the old adage, ‘You can’t choose your family’, and deviously re-writes the qualifier with a resoundingly sinister premise: ‘but you can choose what to do about them.’
Grace is a real marmite character. Me? I enjoyed getting to know her, enormously. She’s like the naughtiest girl in school; bristling with a vehement (albeit extremely squiffy) moral code, and lacking the reserve that keeps the rest of us from translating a furious grudge into something more tangible. On paper, she’s someone to be despised, and certainly deserving of her current cell in Limehouse Prison, but I found her impossible to dislike. Somehow, her censorious criticism, caustic froideur, and murderously vengeful tendencies have twisted themselves into entertaining character traits. Perhaps it’s Grace’s obvious intellect, and her strangely beguiling blunt self-awareness, or perhaps it’s her cuttingly sardonic humour from which very little, and very few are safe. Either way, her murders are a deliciously diabolical blend of amateur genius and deadly irony.
How To Kill Your Family is narrated by Grace. In part to alleviate her cell-bound boredom, but also arguably as a vanity exercise, she’s decided to document her ‘story’, and it’s this account we’re being presented to read. Like its fictional author, it’s sharp, forthright, vicious, and mocking … extremely well written, and chillingly pleasurable reading. She lays bare the source of her fury, introduces us to the deeply unpleasant people she intends to kill, and takes us along for the vicarious ride. It’s not a story she intends to make public – very much, for her eyes only – and so there are no holds barred in her writing. Her critiques, condemnation, and barbed social commentary frame her as an insufferable snob, and yet she never allows her humble origins to be forgotten.
There are so many laugh-out-loud highlights that stand out in this novel, thanks to Grace’s whip-sharp retelling: the unplanned eulogy given by the wife of one of her victims was worthy of a standing ovation; a trip to Greece with school friends; a character assassination of her paternal grandparents; her views on vloggers and vanity, politics and do-gooders, wealth and social pecking-orders, men in chinos and loafers, hallucinogenic frog serum … I could genuinely fill this page with moments from the book that had me in stitches. She is truly the bitch you hate to love … certainly not the ‘friend’ to ask if your bum looks big in this.
I mentioned earlier that Grace is the book’s narrator … and she is … but that is until her defiantly loquacious account is unexpectedly silenced. It happens all of a sudden, no warning signs, just as I was getting close to the book’s end. Without warning a new, entirely unwelcome, voice takes control of the final chapters. This new character also has a lot to say, snatching the forward-looking glory out of Grace’s control. I don’t do spoilers so I won’t say any more about who this character might be, only that I expect my reaction was as incensed as Grace’s would have been. I would so dearly have loved there to be an epilogue to this book, partly because I wasn’t ready for Grace’s story to be so rudely curtailed, but also because I crave another lawless resurgence by a character I’ve become rather fond of.
Having emerged from under Grace’s spell, I have the following advice for all future readers: i) let yourself be influenced by her, yes she’s wicked but she’s bloody good fun; ii) keep an eye on the body-count; and iii) don’t let your guard down.
If you’re getting vibes that I’ve relished reading How To Kill Your Family then you’d be spot on! Grace’s story is unflinching and unapologetic, unequivocally holding me rapt from the prologue to the very end. She teases her readers almost cruelly, with a narrative that seems to be leading you rapidly towards a big reveal, but suddenly diverting down an unforeseen, but equally scandalous, path … but fear not, she’s got a tale to tell and she sure as hell makes sure every morsel gets onto the page. I can’t help but think how perfectly Grace would get on with two of the BBC’s most exciting psychopaths; Alice Morgan and Villanelle … without doubt, fans of Luther and Killing Eve will soak up this fiendishly addictive treat.
Thank you to Borough Press and NetGalley for this advance proof Kindle copy of How To Kill Your Family in return for an honest review.
If this book sounds like one you’d love to read too, here’s a selection of purchase links:
• To buy direct from the author/publisher, click ☞ here
• To support independent local bookshops, click ☞ here
• To feed your Waterstones ‘plus’ loyalty card, click ☞ here
• And of course, here is the ubiquitous Amazon link
Bella Mackie is a journalist and author who writes a regular column for British Vogue. She has previously worked at The Guardian as a commissioning editor and then at VICE news as Deputy Editor. Her articles have also been published in The Daily Mail, Stylist, and GQ.
How To Kill Your Family is Bella’s second book. Her first book, a work of non fiction – Jog On: How Running Saved My Life – was published in 2018, and became a Sunday Times bestseller.
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