Cover Image: Real Bad Things

Real Bad Things

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Member Reviews

Set in Maud Bottoms, Arkansas, Real Bad Things is a good novel about consequences. Jane Mooney and her teenage friends were involved in the death of her violent, drunken step-father, Warren. Jane and her brother,
Jason, grew up in a trailer where her mother invited a parade of boyfriends she met in town. When Warren attacks one of Jane's friends over an parking spot issue, Warren is killed. As Jane and her friends become adults, Warren's death comes back to haunt them with the rise of social media posts when a body is recovered 25 years after the murder. Kelly J. Ford provides readers with a good story about love, family, and especially about small town rural living where people love to meddle.

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Great great and great -
Emotional and suspenseful - a murder - missing men - a group of teens - a brother and sister barely surviving their mother’s abusive man after man /
This will leave you gasping

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I have mixed feelings about this book. It moved very slowly and maybe some of that was on purpose but I didn't enjoy it.. At the same time, there were many interesting things about it. A lesbian, butch returning home after the remains were found of a man she confessed to murdering, an abusive step father. It explores her family dynamics with her distant brother, who she was over protective of and her mother who was abusive and unloving to her. It also explores racism, a past love and small town Southern life.

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When Jane Mooney confessed to killing her abusive stepfather, she was let go because there was no body. Now twenty-five years later remains have been found and Jane has come home to Arkansas to face jail time. But there are irregularities found and it seems that the case brings more questions to light and it is suspected that others may have been involved.

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 anyone 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 The hometown, the reader is pulled along with her, and you can almost feel the whispers and the sidelong looks as she does.
As Jane tries to reconnect with her brother, has to deal with her venomous mother, and rekindles a bond with Georgie Lee (her one true love) truth of what happened that fateful night years ago slowly comes out.
I really enjoyed this book. I found it a bit slow at first but once the story started to pick up and I got into it I found it hard to put down!
This was a gripping thriller that was rather predictable. Even so, the premise and storyline were well done and it got me hooked enough to stay and finish it.
The book focused heavily on relationships, and while some could be salvaged, others were beyond repair.
The author writes in a way that is easily understandable and relatable.
I recommend the book for mature readers, due to some sexual, violent, and abusive content.
I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley for my honest review. My opinions are my own.

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I would give this a 3 star, I couldn't feel any connection to the characters at all and the plot was mid like there wasn't anything surpirsing

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Just enjoyed the character Jane so much.
My first book by Ford and it won't be the last.
Her character development and scene setting is excellent

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Real Bad Things was, despite my rating, not a bad book. It just wasn’t a book that particularly grabbed me at any stage. I honestly couldn’t say why this is. As I said, it’s not a bad book. It just ended up not being a book I felt very much about.

The story follows Jane, who is returning home, believing herself about to be arrested for the murder of her stepfather, which she confessed to twenty-odd years before, after a body was found in the river. Her return forces her to reckon with the lies she and the others involved told at the time.

I think the primary reason for this was I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about the characters or their relationships, or anything that I should have cared about to make me at all interested in the book. I cannot say why—it’s nothing I can really point to based on the book itself. Perhaps it was my mood, but whatever the reason it meant, in a book where probably caring about the characters made or broke my enjoyment of it, I hadn’t started off on the right foot.

The plot could have been compelling, that’s the thing. There was enough in the mystery that I was at least interested in all that. But because I was ambivalent about the characters, I never found it more than okay.

It also left me with a lot of questions, chief amongst which was, just why did Diane hate her daughter that much? I suppose Jane never gets the question answered so it makes sense that we don’t either, but then. Couldn’t it have been hinted at? Something? Because, based on what we saw, it feels like that wasn’t enough to generate the vitriol it did.

However, I think my major conclusion here is that, once again it feels like, this was just a book that hit me at the wrong time.

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I think that as a whole "Real Bad Things" by Kelly J Ford is okay--good, even. BUT, I found so many little things annoying or just...ridiculous that I couldn't really relax and enjoy it.

Jane is called home after 25 years. A body has been found and it's said to be her stepfather. The one that she once confessed to killing. Upon her return, she's treated as the town pariah, a true crime celebrity. Her mother allows her to stay at her trailer, however she is not treated with any sort of warmth. She is used for her money, and nothing else.

Georgia Lee, Jane's former girlfriend and now current city councilwoman, is torn between reconnecting with her friend or keeping up appearances due to the upcoming election.

The women know the truth of what happened that night and what they promised to never tell.

The twist in the book kind of came out of nowhere. And was better than the 70% of the rest of the book. It was too much dialogue and too much back and forth leading up to the twist. I think that it was far too much back story and back and forth between Jane and Georgia Lee than necessary.

This book deals with heavy topics and it's not something that should be taken lightly. I feel there's a lot of other things that could have been covered that were just lightly covered (sexuality, sexuality identity, sexuality discrimination, etc) that could have been explored more than others that could have made the story so much more compelling.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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Real Bad Things is the second novel by award-winning American author, Kelly J. Ford. Recently jobless, homeless and romantically detached, a string of text messages from her ever-hostile mother is really all the impetus Jane Mooney needs to quit Boston and return to her Arkansas hometown, Maud. “They found him.” “I TOLD YOU THEY WOULD.” “Time to come home.” “Time to pay for what YOU DONE.”

Twenty-five years earlier, inexplicably breaking the solemn vow made with her younger brother, her best friend and her lover, Jane confessed to murdering her abusive stepfather, Warren Ingram, as soon as he was reported missing. Jane was arrested, but without a body, or evidence of a crime, the case couldn’t proceed. Jane left town as soon as she was released.

Now, she’s back to face the music but, new among the lazy, incompetent members of the Maud Police Department, Detective Benjamin Hampton isn’t ready to arrest her just yet. He’s asking awkward questions, and Jane feels the need to check that the other three are sticking to the agreed story. But, for over two decades, Jane has believed a version of what happened that, it turns out, is not quite correct.

Georgia Lee Lane is unhappily married with twin teenaged sons, manages the Maud Pharmacy, and has been a city councillor for fifteen years. But her opponent in the upcoming election has plenty of money to splash around, and she is already polling badly enough without her name being associated with Lezzie Borden, the nickname Jane acquired after her confession. But that’s exactly what the “Let’s Talk About Maud” Facebook group, run by a couple of auto body guys, is doing.

In order to survive, Georgia Lee has cast the events of twenty-five years earlier from her mind, but “Some days it felt like trouble hung around her like a coat she couldn’t cast off, weighing her down, no matter how good or kind or helpful she tried to be. It made her sweat. Restricted every forward motion so much that past deeds and present resentments swelled inside her.”

The story is told through alternating narratives from the perspectives of Jane and Georgia Lee, along with flashbacks to the time of the murder. Ford constructs her plot so skilfully that the astute reader who believes they have figured out exactly what happened to Warren Ingram still has a surprise or two in store, and even those who pick up on a few hints throughout the story are unlikely to predict the final, jaw-dropping, reveal.

Ford deftly conveys the Arkansas Bible-belt small-town mindset where “Who cared about crime when you had two women doing something people thought they ought not do?” Maud is painted as a place that revels in gossip and speculation spouted in print, screen and social media, where a strip of compromising photo-booth shots of two seventeen-year-old girls is deemed more important than competing confessions of murder.

While it is easy to empathise with some of the players, none of her characters is necessarily all that likeable: all have very human flaws, and while many are simply trying to get by as best they can, quite a few are downright despicable. Certain scenes in the later chapters are blackly funny, and Ford has a talent for descriptive prose: “words like justice and I told you so spitting out of her mouth like knives”. A brilliant slow-burn thriller!
This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer

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Absolutely loved this book. It sucked me in from the getgo and had me guessing all the way to the end. Did not want it to end at all.

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This book was a bit of a dud for me. I didn’t feel any connection to the characters whatsoever, even the really horrible ones didn’t make me feel much as I thought the depth of them was really shallow.

The storyline was kind of a hodgepodge of issues that seemed forced to me. It was nice to have LGBTQ+ representation but it felt watered down when added to the “women aren’t believed” rhetoric and a sprinkle of other things for good measure. I would have loved to see one theme and have the author make it truly something.

I wasn’t shocked or surprised by the twist either which was a bummer and I think by the time I got there I was already checked out due to the wordy, repetitive dialogue so that didn’t help.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this one…

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A twisting tale of murder, secrets and coming home to face the music, Real Bad Things will keep you guessing and surprise you with its emotional depth and honesty. Kelly J. Ford has crafted a stimulating story that’s part crime thriller, part psychological exploration and part social commentary.

Twenty-Five years ago, Warren Ingram disappeared. It was the latest in a string of male disappearances in Maud, Arkansas. And despite people believing he got drunk and drowned, Warren’s stepdaughter Jane Mooney had confessed to murdering him. With no body and no evidence, Jane was released and left town. Now Warren’s assumed remains have been found after the river floods. Jane comes back to Maud to await her imminent arrest. But what really happened on that night twenty-five years ago? As the investigation unfolds, secrets thought long buried come to the surface and the truth – for better or worse – will finally come to light.

Real Bad Things tackles several intriguing topics through the lens of a murder investigation – adolescent development and loss of innocence, domestic violence, being LGBTQ+ in the rural south, small town living and gossip, protecting those you care about, the haves vs. the have nots, and the pressure of keeping a secret. All these themes seamlessly come together in a suspenseful whodunit story that makes you root for some characters to find peace while praying others get what’s coming to them.

Engaging and fast-paced with compelling characters, Real Bad Things is a superb and thought-provoking entry in the southern noir genre. It may have been my first Kelly J. Ford novel, but it won’t be my last.

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Real Bad Things by Kelly J. Ford is a recommended psychological thriller.

When Jane Mooney confessed to killing her abusive stepfather, she was let go because there was no body. Now twenty-five years later remains have been found and Jane has come home to Arkansas to face jail time. But there are irregularities found and it seems that the case is bring more questions to light and it is suspected that others may have been involved.

Jane has to deal with her truculent mother who is more concerned about who will pay for the funeral rather than her estranged relationship with Jane and her son Jason. Jane was called “Lezzie Borden” at the time of her confession and the attitude toward her remains. Then when others confess to the crime, the real case is searching for the truth about what happened all those years ago.

Jane and her friend from years ago, Georgia Lee are narrators and the plot unfolds through their points-of-view. The characters are portrayed as realistic individuals, but aren't deeply developed so I didn't feel a connection to them. The child abuse present in the story felt excessive. Furthermore, there is simply too much pointless dialogue, which made the novel feel overly long.

Plenty of clues are provided along the way that point to the truth, although they are disguised. I wasn't really invested in the story, however, and really questioned the name calling involved in the plot. Additionally, the novel is more concerned with trying to throw in various surprises and twists than making a truly unpredictable plot. It was a bit too predictable.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Thomas&Mercer via NetGalley.
The review will be published on Barnes & Noble, Edelweiss, Google Books, and Amazon.

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I am afraid I just didn't connect with this book. I am really sorry and hope others enjoy it more. I feel like it was my fault for requesting it, and will be interested to see what other readers thought of it.

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I'm afraid that this just wasn't for me. I really struggled to maintain focus on either the characters or the storyline and almost didn't finish it.

It's about buried secrets and the lead character returns home to face the music on a murder she committed years before.

I'm clearly in the minority as many love the writing and storyline and I wish the author every success. Just not one for me - sorry!

I do appreciate the opportunity to preview though and thank you NetGalley and the publishers.

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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.

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Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

PUBLICATION DAY: September 1, 2022

Teenager Jane always knew she had to get out of Maud Bottoms…she had to leave Arkansas or she wouldn’t survive. Taking care of her brother Jason was her prime focus…her mother certainly wasn’t going to help, drinking and bringing home debatable men was her main goal - not her children. When things go horribly wrong one night, Jane confesses to murder, but when no action is taken she leaves town for good. Until a body is found 25 years later and Jane is right back where she started. What really happened that night? And will the right person be punished for the crime?

Such a well written, easy to read book. I loved (or loved to hate) the characters of Jane, Georgia Lee and Diane. There are just enough characters to keep you guessing, and just enough mystery to keep you invested until the end. I enjoyed it!

Ford’s work is a first for me, I’d definitely read another. Definitely recommended!

4 Stars

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This was a good slow burn psychological thriller. I did guess the ending pretty early on so it took away from the shock factor for me. Jane confesses to the murder of her stepdad and when the body is found 25 years later, she returns home. Reminded me of a Gillian Flynn novel.

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🎵🎶🎵Oh give me a home where the doublewides roam and the skies are not cloudy all day 🎵🎶🎵

I am thankful for Shelby’s friendship for a plethora of reasons, but maybe none so much as her addiction to NetGalley and her late night texts that turn me on to books she knows I can’t live without. (And this one was even a Read Now!!!)

I have been waiting FOUR lonnnnnnng years for Kelly J. Ford to release her sophomore novel after the perfection which was Cottonmouths. To say this one didn’t disappoint would be a massive understatement. The story here starts off with . . . .

They found him. I TOLD YOU THEY WOULD. Time to come home. Time to pay for what YOU DONE.

Yummy yum yum. Nothing better than a “you can’t go home again.” Especially when said home is a trailer park and there’s a long dead stepdaddy involved. After that, it’s all about . . . .


I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wished for more of a “why” behind the big reveal, but that’s because I’m an entitled first worlder and need to get over myself. And you know how the old song goes ….. you can't always get what you want.

Kelly J. Ford is a hell of a storyteller. I’ll read her dang grocery list.

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, NetGalley!

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Thank you NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the copy of Real Bad Things. The story was dark in many ways. The premise was interesting but I wasn’t as captivated as I had hoped. I did like the eventual outcome. The characters were not just unlikable, but also nasty. This made it hard to care about them. The writing was difficult to get into or connect with. I didn’t like all of the bad language and the “gossip sheet” parts were childish (really, calling Jane ‘lezzy”?) and didn't really add to the story. People that like a twisty story and don’t need to care about the characters and that connect to the writing would like this book. Sadly, it wasn’t for me. 2.5 stars rounded up to 3.

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