I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Thriller, Suspense
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Penguin Audio (July 20, 2021)
Length: 10 hrs and 37 mins
Narrator: David Pittu
Samantha Downing proves once again that she is an expert at crafting tales of psychological suspense. I’m loving everything this woman writes! For Your Own Good is my third book by the author after My Lovely Wife and He Started It, and while it might not be my favorite of the three, I appreciated the fact that it was quite different. In fact, all of Downing’s books have brought something new to the table, what doesn’t change is the relentless fun and thrills.
In this one, the story takes at Belmont Academy, one of the most exclusive secondary schools in the country. Wealthy parents send their kids here for some serious education, and some won’t tolerate anything less than perfect. After Zach brings home a B+ on his English paper, his mom and dad immediately meet with his teacher Teddy Crutcher to discuss a way for him to make up the grade to save his 4.0. What they don’t realize though, is that Crutcher is a psychopath. Zach knows this, and he’s also aware he’s on his English teacher’s shitlist and that it wouldn’t have mattered how good his paper was, he’d never have gotten a fair grade anyway. Crutcher is just out to make his life a living hell, and Zach has no idea why.
But the truth is, Teddy Crutcher is out get more than just Zach. He has a serious beef with pretty much everyone at the school, from the bratty kids and their snooty rich parents to the other meddlesome teachers, many of whom are Belmont alumni. It’s a tightly knit family, which sometimes makes Teddy feel like an outsider, having grown up in poverty. He’s sure they all look down on him, and not even winning a Teacher of the Year award could change that. Still, he has his ways of dealing with people he doesn’t like, his own ways of teaching them a lesson. Like making up lies about a student’s integrity in a reference letter, for example, killing any chance of them getting into their college of choice. Children need to learn they can’t always get everything they want, after all, so it’s for their own good! Or what about testing out the toxic effects of his homegrown plants and herbs using his colleague’s drinks in the faculty lounge, because hey, what’s a little mild poisoning? In the end, they’d all deserve it.
And therein lies the reason why Samantha Downing’s books are so unputdownable. She has a remarkable talent for writing these completely batshit, over-the-top insane characters who nonetheless feel like they could exist—at least for a while anyway, which is enough. Also, someone like Teddy will inevitably make a ton of enemies, no matter how well he tries to mask his insincerity and evil intentions. While he’s easily the most twisted of them all, there were plenty other characters dealing with their own bizarre issues who could give him a run for his money. Throw all these fragile emotions, insecurities and suspicions in with the phoniness and overblown egos at a place like Belmont, and what do you get? A powder keg, just waiting for the perfect spark.
And when it explodes, I have to say, it does so spectacularly. I’m not going give anything away, but there were plenty of unexpected plot twists and jaw-dropping surprises. My only criticism is that after a while, some of these “bombshells” became slightly repetitive and felt a little contrived, as there’s a limit to how much I’m willing to be jerked around. Still, to be fair, I never felt like I was truly pushed to this point even if I did come close. Mostly, it was due to all the different POVs and how they were used, leaving no room for any guessing games or the delicious intrigue that comes with a good mystery, though ultimately, I do understand this was never meant to be that kind of book.
So just sit down, buckle up and enjoy the wild ride as Samantha Downing unleashes another nonstop thriller that will have you gasping for breath. Wish I could say more, but I won’t…for your own good! Kudos also to narrator David Pittu for pulling off all the different POV voices for the audio edition. I remember his amazing performance in My Lovely Wife as well and was definitely happy to see him return for another one of the author’s books.