Cover Image: Real Bad Things

Real Bad Things

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Member Reviews

Gritty and suspenseful, mixed with violence. This has the makings of a good story.
Full of secrets and lies, wondering who you can trust.
And living with guilt can kill you by itself.
I enjoyed this one a lot.

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This was a wild one.

The beginning is so strong. Impressive characterization and world building, with tons of believable suspense. But the structure was odd. It felt like we got the big reveal at like 35% in, the next 50% was good but not great, and the ending truly goes off the rails. I still enjoyed and think this will find an audience, but as a huge consumer of thrillers, this didn't quite pull it off for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing an eARC in exchange for this review.

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A really good, racy, fast paced psychological thriller!
Well worthy of a read and an easy 4 star rating!

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My first Ford read and I must say I'm very happy this story was a hit for me.
I've gotta get my hands on her first novel Cottonmouths I've heard amazing things about it and now I seriously need it.

But damn... REAL BAD THINGS is a freaking phenomenal book.
I picked this up and could not put it down that I read in a day.
Kelly's writing is so descriptive that I was transported to Maud Bottoms, Arkansas with all its eerie, spine chilling beauty.
Her brilliant plot and well-developed characters take you on roller coaster of twists and turns that keep you riveted from page one.
Kelly J. Ford will from here on out be an automatic buy for me.

Thomas & Mercer,
Thank You for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!
I will post my review closer to pub date.

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Real Bad Things is about a murder that happened to a violent stepfather. No body no arrest so Jane goes and moves away to find out twenty-five years later the river floods and the body surfaces.

Well written, the story keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

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“Real Bad Things” explores the reflective events which transpired in the lives of a group of four (4) friends in their teen years as they find themselves involved in the disappearance of Warren Ingram; an abusive drunk who fills the role of stepfather to Jane & Jason Mooney in title alone. This story is read through the dual point of views of Georgia Lee & Jane; two members of the group of four who fostered a blossoming romance for a short period of time before Jane put herself forward as the murderer of Warren, with no other reasons given than her desire to cover for her sibling whom she believed to be responsible for the crime.

It is important to note that the majority of the themes explored in this book deal with sensitive subject matters. My review, therefore, touches on these topics as well. Many people might find the subject matters of the book as well as those detailed in my review overwhelming. I would suggest you steer clear of both if this is the case. Please note that from this point forward I will be writing about matters which contain reflections on abuse, child endangerment, violence, parental neglect, sexual abuse, psychological distress, & others.

It is important for me to give credit where it is due & therefore, I shall begin my review with praise. Ford crafts a story which could be real; all the characters in this book could be people any of us knew, they could be people we read about in the paper, they could even possibly be me or they could be you. The world in which this story takes place (Maud, Arkansas) is earnest & settled; we do not require multiple chapters to understand or appreciate where we are as Ford drew us a clear picture & I applaud her for that. While I do grant Ford praise for crafting a story which revealed in its ability to present the reader with fully fleshed-out characters, environments, & conflicts; this also leads me to the part which rendered this book something more difficult for me to read. I found myself off-the-cuff hating Georgia Lee.

It is challenging for me to write about situations I find in books without putting myself into the critique. I suppose this is the clause to which humanity is pinned; we view everything in the first person & in everyone & everything, we compare & contrast our own experiences as well as ourselves. For this reason, I was unable to garner any sympathy towards Georgia Lee. We have to read about a character who felt inclined to vocalize that she was the reason that Jane & Jason were safe from Warren’s abuse. She was the one who killed the violent man who lived in their home. She was the one who stood-up against the villain. I want this to be clear; I am in no way trying to shame people who have not lived through situations in which your entire personality, your well-being, your survival mechanisms are transformed due to abuse. I am not trying to say that if you had a good life, you cannot speak on things around you. What I am saying is that it was very obvious to me that Georgia Lee had never truly been afraid a day in her life. For, if she had, she would have kept her mouth shut when Warren was slurring-off to her in the doorway that night. I was riddled with anxiety reading a scene about a person who had not a single clue as to what it feels like to be afraid in your own home; what it feels like to have to be quiet in all the wrong ways so that you are safe, so that one day you can actually feel safe. It’s no good talking back to someone whom you know could put your head through the drywall.

What I found most aggravating about this scene was that we are meant to feel poorly for Georgia Lee. Perhaps, my inability to do so resides fully on my experiences. I could not but feel petrified for Jane & Jason because there was no way in hell that Georgia Lee was going to set right what a grown person had put to wrong. The fact that she bludgeoned him while he was inebriated, with a stone was luck & nothing more. To read about a situation where things could have gone very wrong, very quickly, as though there was no possibility of that happening was sickening. I will grant Ford the benefit of the doubt; perhaps she wrote this book in a way that would lead the reader to grasp that fact for themselves. Regardless, I found it difficult to digest.

I want to talk about the details of the crime. Due to this story taking place in a State within a country in which I am unfamiliar with their legal system, I found myself having to do further research while making my way through the story. I am certainly glad for a book to encourage me to further my knowledge on a subject which I was unfamiliar with prior, however the way this story presents it’s obstacles was a bit frustrating. For example, when Warren is ‘found’ I was automatically confused about how they would have known that it was him. The man had been dead for twenty-five (25) years & his body was in warm water which one can conclude to mean that the heightened temperature would have certainly moved forward the decomposition his body underwent. One might state that the policing body would have tested his DNA with previous medical records. Given this story takes place in the USA it’s not farfetched to assume that Warren, who spent all of his time & money in remaining drunk, was probably not working a job which granted him medical insurance. Therefore, he wouldn’t have been seeing a dentist & therefore, no medical records might be pulled to compare to the teeth found on the skeleton.

When it is revealed that the skeleton was in fact not Warren’s, I was annoyed. I appreciate that this is a small town in a State wherein advanced justice system proceedings might not take place, however I cannot confirm that for certain as I do not live there. Therefore, the author is asking of the reader to make many leaps in their assumptions to cushion the plot reveals.

Assuming that the policing body in Maud was in fact horrendous at their jobs, they would still have to record that they found a body. We already know for a fact that there were dozens (if not more) men who have gone missing in a specific period of time. Even with them being utterly horrible at their job, one might assume that one of the men missing was a personal friend of a police officer. In this case, that was Warren (as detailed by numerous recollections). Therefore, as a personal friend of the victim, why was no effort put into ensuring that the identification was confirmed? We are assuming that this story takes place in the current time (21st Century) & as detailed with the use of Facebook, we can therefore deduce that these people knew about advanced criminal investigations & proceedings. So, why did we have to read an entire book in which the policing body had released a confirmed statement of the body being Warren? Diane was the person to know that Warren was found due to Gerry telling her. She doesn’t strike me as an idiot, though she acts idiotically, so, why was she so apt to believe him if not for a supporting statement by the police?

As well, Jane states that she was sent to Juvenile Detention for her crimes against Warren. Based on “Shelby John TIPTON v. STATE of Arkansas” (1998) a person would not be convicted of the same crime twice (also known as double jeopardy). I am left feeling confused as to whether Jane’s stint in Juvie was indeed her serving time for the crime she admitted to, given she was a minor she wouldn’t have been sent to an adult penitentiary (though this has been known to happen before). Therefore, was she convicted of the murder or did she serve time for….being annoying? Why did she go there if not as a consequence of a conviction. If that is the case, why was she constantly worried she was going to be re-convicted?

Though I did have frustrations with the crimes presented in this novel, I appreciated that we were presented a story that took place in a town filled with people who lost men en mass & yet seemed totally oblivious to it ever happening; something not unlike what happens in many cities, States, Provinces & Territories around North America every day.

My greatest qualm with the way the book flows is the asinine amount of dialogue we have to read which brings nothing to the story. Every chapter is filled with reflections which then result in inner monologue which then transform into shared dialogues of; is this person keeping something from me? I am a protector. Did this person squeal on me? Who did this? Why would this person I know do this?

We circle the same number of questions which are never answered. It made no difference how many times Jane questioned her brother’s involvement because when the book was over, nothing was revealed to us that we didn’t already know. Are we meant to believe that 14-year-old Jason was murdering all his mother’s boyfriends? The reveal of him having been sexually abused by at least one of Diane’s partners was hinted as having happened early in the book & the fact that it is never concretely explored makes me feel as though it were utilized as some form of reasoning for him taking a baseball bat to a person.

The reason I would have preferred a conclusive & well-presented ending was because we speak about so much of ‘nothing’ throughout the entire story that, when we arrive at the end; Diane laying on the sofa trying to off-herself, Jason covering for her evasion of guilt in the crimes. I wish we had actually had some form of substantial dialogue. Instead, the entire final chapters are filled with back & forth ‘run’ ‘no’ ‘run’ ‘no’….Please, give me something to work with here, we’re standing in the room with the person we are meant to believe serial murdered dozens & dozens of adult men in his childhood, I need some form of concrete statement somewhere to clear the water because right now it makes little sense to me.

This is not to say that I don’t understand Jason’s trauma response, I do. However, I would have wanted Ford to detail things more clearly. When did he snap? Where along the line did he realize violence was his means of retaliation? When did Diane realize that Jason was capable of violent crimes? What was the conversation they had between mother & son that would have resulted in Diane being completely fine with Jane hanging for a crime she knew Jane hadn’t committed? There was a lot of information missing & though it’s fine to hint at things & allow the reader to form their own conclusions, I didn’t like that for this story. The weight of the subjects broached in the plot merited some explanations. I would say particularly so as this story presents much of what many people go through in a way as to shed light on how common they are. People are swift & unquestioning when a parent states something; no one questioned whether or not Georgia Lee had Mono, for example. I think the children who were abused in this story deserved their truth to be told in a blunt & honest way. Though I acknowledge that this would rarely happen from a first person perspective; the book would have benefited from a third person narration.

Utilizing Georgia Lee & Jane as narrators kept the story within confines that prevented the reader from learning details which would have carried weight; which would have garnered the characters sympathy, understanding. A third person narration would have also allowed the reader to pause, to really reflect on many, if all, of the facts presented in the story.

Overall, I didn’t hate this story but it wasn’t one that I would reveal for it’s astounding plot. I found the characters to be shallow the majority of the time. Though, this might be true to their dimension as people, it was hard to want to continue reading when I didn’t feel any connection to any of them, nor did I anticipate any reveals because for me, most of it was set-out since the beginning. This is why I made my comments regarding transparency of trauma/influence. However, I acknowledge that this could come down to my own inability to read between the lines of the final scenes.

Overall, I think many people will enjoy this story. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it & I do feel that it will be appreciated by many should they decide to give it a chance.

Thank you to NetGalley, Thomas & Mercer & Kelly J. Ford for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

#RealBadThings #NetGalley

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I liked this book. It was a little different from what I normally read. The themes in this book at times were a little difficult to get through but it was a great read.

Jane Mooney’s abusive father, Warren disappeared one day, and she did it. Most people assumed Warren just got drunk and drowned in the river, but Jane knows the truth.

She confessed to the murder expecting to go to jail. However, without a body the police exclaimed technically there is no crime, and Jane was free. She took off for Boston and never looked back.

Twenty five years later, the river floods and Warren’s remains are discovered. It is all anyone is talking about. Upon hearing the news, Jane returns home ready to face the music. Not everyone is happy to see Jane. Some secrets should remain buried.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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