Ellen Walsh is a good person. At least she thinks so. Looking back on her life, she knows she’s not perfect. No one is, right? But what has she done that would make someone seek revenge? Not only do threatening notes turn up at her home (one attached to an enormous floral bouquet), but anonymous phone calls report her to the police for driving while intoxicated and to child services for creating an unsafe environment for her children. Worse yet, Ellen feels alone in this battle with even her husband, Adam, failing to come to her defense. Will she be able to find the perpetrator and clear her name? Even more terrifying, will the threats escalate to violence harming her or someone she loves?
Caz Frear takes a break from her Cat Kinsella series for this stand alone mystery. Kinsella, a detective constable in Ireland, is a tough character to like, so it’s no surprise that Ellen Walsh also fits that mold. Raised in a poor dysfunctional family that lived in a seedy part of town, both Ellen and her sister, Kristy, managed to escape. Ellen graduated from college with a teaching degree and married Adam, while Kristy was recruited by a top modeling agency and enjoyed a lucrative career.
Caz Frear (Photo Credit: Hannah K Photography)
Ellen, still living on a strict budget, borrowed money from Kristy for a ski vacation. What Ellen didn’t know was that Kristy’s career had bottomed out and she was selling drugs to stay afloat. When Ellen failed to pay Kristy back on time, her drug supplier/boyfriend beat her up and threw her down a flight of stairs. Her injuries were so severe that any chance for returning to modeling was killed. Years later, Kristy is living in a small house adjacent to Meadowhouse, Ellen’s spacious one, dependent upon her sister for her financial and physical well being. Since Ellen eventually made good on the loan, she has no idea that the delay was responsible for the injuries that ended Kristy’s career.
Even though the sisters’ relationship is still strained, Kristy’s name doesn’t rise to the top of the list of possible suspects harassing Ellen. Kristy’s new boyfriend, Shay, however, is another matter. An electrician who now bartends at the local pub, Shay doesn’t hide his contempt for Ellen. Could he have called the police after she left the pub? Ellen is pulled over by a local police officer, Jason, and photos of her taking a breathalyzer test surface on the internet, along with older photos of her in a skimpy dress downing alcohol. The new teaching job that was once hers to lose is now lost.
Ellen and Adam have three children, Orla, 14, and toddler twin boys, Max and Kian. While the younger children are still in love with their mother, Orla is a sullen teen who takes every opportunity to talk back and bad mouth Ellen to anyone who will listen. Although painful to admit, Ellen can’t rule out her own daughter as the source of the internet bullying. Ellen also can’t eliminate her neighbor and sometime friend, Nush, who once dated Adam, and Gwen, a young single mother who lives with her brother Jason. After researching Jason online, Ellen learns that he left a top police job in London to come to the small town of Thames Lawley. What he is trying to hide?
Ellen’s biggest secret, one she has kept from Adam, is that she is tutoring Zane, a young man who lives in a bad part of town and was recently booted out of his school. Ellen is not charging Zane and rationalizes the situation by saying she understands what it’s like to grow up poor with few opportunities. She can’t deny, however, that Zane is hot and she often brings him gifts, including an expensive Ralph Lauren shirt. One afternoon she leaves a family outing with Adam and the boys to give Zane a ride. When Zane goes missing, she finds herself not only a suspect but trashed on the internet for having sex with a teenage boy.
Frear tells the story from various viewpoints and the clues slowly begin to mount until everything is tied up in what can only be called a shock ending. And while we may not like Ellen, or any of the characters, we can, on some level understand what oftentimes drives good people to do bad things.
Five Bad Deeds