It was Beth’s fault we never had any birthday parties. Well, not since our first and last one, when we were five. We were so excited, I remember that much. It was our first proper party. We were running around the house, shrieking and laughing, jumping up and down and waiting for the guests to arrive. Beth had on her new frilly dress with fairy wings and a tutu skirt, and I was wearing one of Beth’s old pinafores that she’d grown out of. We’d done our hair up in lopsided bunches with our favourite scrunchies and butterfly clips. Mum had made party bags, blown up balloons. She’d even baked a cake with nine candles: five for Beth and four for me because one of them broke in the packet on the way back from the shop. The house was warm with the sweet smell of baking. It was a My Little Pony cake: vanilla buttercream, strawberry jam, hundreds of thousands of sprinkles. I didn’t like vanilla. Or buttercream. Or strawberry jam, to be honest. Beth was the one who was mad keen on horses. I preferred trolls. But I thought the cake looked pretty cool: the pink flying pony with sparkly wings and a blue mane that glistened and flowed in the wind. Horses could fly in those days; there was magic in the air. At least, that’s what I thought until the guests started to arrive. Then it all went downhill.
‘Happy birthday!’ The kids all burst in squealing. And then the party games began. Beth won Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Beth won Musical Statues and Musical Chairs. Mum always stopped the music when Beth had the present when we were playing Pass the Parcel. Beth was the one Mum let cut the cake and make a wish (and it was such a beautiful knife!).
That was it. I couldn’t take any more. I turned on my heel and sprinted upstairs, my head exploding with thundering rage, my eyes overflowing with tears. I spent the afternoon crying in a locked bathroom surrounded by tissues soggy with snot. I could hear the party in full swing below me, the ghetto blaster thumping Beth’s favourite song: ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ by Kylie Minogue. Mum said I could stay in there ‘Until you learn how to behave!’ Beth had a great time. I never tasted that cake. My sister kept trying to make me come out. Banging on the door. Begging me. Pleading. She twisted the doorknob so hard it came off. She offered me her presents, her cards and cake (she only did it to make herself feel better). But it wasn’t the same. Second-hand toys just don’t have that sparkle. I didn’t want to share. Sharing is bullshit. Whoever said ‘sharing is caring’ did not have a twin.
That was the year that the horses stopped flying.
We never had another party after that.
‘Mad’ the first book in the ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know’ trilogy is a curious mix of bonkbuster and mystery. Alvie, the anti-heroine is an identical twin and in her words, the antithesis of her perfect sister, Beth.
Alvie’s recollection of her childhood is that she was always second- best, regardless of whether this was the case, it damaged Alvie emotionally and destroyed the twins emotional connection.
Alvie’s life is a mess, and she glorifies in it, projecting the bad girl, don’t care persona that people expect of her, she lives to shock and usually manages it. When her life implodes, she decides to accept her estranged sister’s invite to stay with her, to escape. A pawn in a dangerous game, she finds nothing is what it seems. Her life changes irreparably, but as usual, she embraces the horror rather than running from it.
Alvie is a complex character, who isn’t easy to empathise. She is foul-mouthed, takes drugs, drinks to excess and steals anything she desires, including men. Despite losing her moral compass, she is vulnerable, often naive, desperate for someone to love her and a natural comedian.
The story’s dark comedy will appeal to many, and all the characters’ vivacity and the settings’ vivid description draw you into the story, following the breathless action. I can’t wait to see what scrapes Alvie gets into next.
If you like your mysteries, set in paradise, with larger than life characters who exhibit all of the seven deadly sins, you’ll enjoy this.
I received a copy of this book from Penguin UK -Michael Joseph via NetGalley in return for an honest review.