The Bad Daughter
Writer: Joy Fielding
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Review by Anelise Farris
The Bad Daughter follows the self-conscious therapist Robin as she travels home upon the news of her father’s death. This is, of course, a tragic event in and of itself, but this is compounded by just how dysfunctional her family is. To put it as succinctly as possible: Robin’s childhood best friend Tara was engaged to Robin’s brother Alec, only to breakup with Alec and marry Robin’s father instead—believing that a mature man would be a better fit for her and her daughter.
This event caused Robin to leave home and break off communication with her family. Now, Robin has returned home to face her estranged sister, Melanie, and her autistic son, Landon, as well as the mystery surrounding the attack on Robin’s father and his new family. In what appears to be a home invasion, Robin’s father was shot and is now in a coma; Tara was fatally shot; and, Tara’s twelve-year-old daughter Cassidy was also shot but not fatally.
The cops are at a loss for what happened—alternating from suspecting Alec (the ex-lover with a grudge) and Landon (the autistic, often-violent grandson). And, then there is Kenny: a nineteen-year-old drug addict who appears to be overly interested and protective of Cassidy. Is Cassidy involved with Kenny? Does Cassidy know more than she claims to remember about the incident? These are just some of the questions that begin to stir in the reader’s mind early on in the novel.
There is a lot going on in The Bad Daughter, but Joy Fielding is a skilled writer who knows how to weave together all of the various strands in order to build suspense without losing the reader. Although the drama of Robin’s family dynamics might seem too crazy to be true, Fielding develops strong, believable characters that befriend the reader in this fast-paced crime thriller.
That being said, The Bad Daughter is not without fault. About a quarter of the way into the novel, I began to cringe, suspecting a typical autistic-person-is-the-villain story. Everyone suspects Landon, and he is never given a point of view or “voice” in the story. He is merely a hulking, ominous figure that rocks in his room for hours, throws phones out of anger, and does what he pleases.
His mother Melanie often blames him for holding her back, rooting her to this town, her father’s house, and a poor-paying part-time job. She never expresses concern for where he is or how his life could be improved. He is characterized as having an artistic ability, but Melanie could care less. Fortunately, however, despite Fielding’s often poor characterization of Landon, she does redeem herself with the story’s ending. I found myself breathing a huge sigh of relief at the surprising, satisfying twist that The Bad Daughter supplies.
Verdict: Buy it.
I am a sucker for a good crime drama, and The Bad Daughter definitely delivers. This unpredictable, fast-paced read is perfect for a lazy weekend (or, in my case, a cold, snowy afternoon). With an interesting cast of characters and a heavy dose of family drama, Joy Fielding’s latest thriller won’t let you down.
The Bad Daughter is available in stores today, February 27, 2018.