Teddy Crutcher won Teacher of the Year at the prestigious Belmont Academy. Everyone thinks he’s brilliant.
Only you know the truth.
They all smile when he tells us his wife couldn’t be more proud
But no-one has seen her in a while
They’re impressed when he doesn’t let anything distract him – even the tragic death of a school parent.
Even when the whispers start, saying it was murder.
You’re sure Teddy is hiding something about what happened that day.
You’re sure you can prove it.
But you didn’t stop to think that when it comes to catching a killer, there’s no place more dangerous than just one step behind . . .
For the students and teachers at Belmont Academy, life should be good. The elite private school has a track record for producing illustrious alumni and excellent GPA students. Parents can be assured their children will be granted a wealth of opportunities and the staff – and can suitably influence decisions, either directly or indirectly, should that not be the case. The staff are exemplary; none more so that Teddy Crutcher, Teacher of the Year.
Scratch below the surface of Belmont Academy, however, and you’ll find a simmering hotbed of professional rivalries, student resentments, briber, corruption, secrets and lies – all of it ready to go up in flames with one strike of the match. When a prominent member of the school community collapses during a retirement party, apparently poisoned, it isn’t long before the carefully constructed facades of Belmont Academy – and those who work and study within its walls – begins to go up in flames.
For Your Own Good, Samantha Downing’s latest psychological thriller, is a page-turningly compulsive examination of several characters who I suspect many readers will love to hate. Told from several different perspectives, we get to see Belmont from the perspective of a wealthy student, a long-serving teacher, a bitter ex-alumni and, of course, Teacher of the Year himself, Teddy Crutcher.
Teddy was, for me, a deeply unpleasant character to be inside the head of. It is clear from the outset of the book that he has several axes to grind at Belmont and a chip on his shoulder so sharp it could cut people (and frequently does). Underneath it all, Teddy just wants what is best for people, but how he judges what is ‘best’ – and the actions he takes to ensure the ‘best’ outcome for his students and co-workers – is deeply disturbing.
To be honest, I didn’t really like any of the characters at Belmont Academy. Samantha Downing has created a really toxic environment in Belmont Academy – and has clearly had a great deal of fun filling it with equally toxic personalities to create a really tangled web of motives and opportunities. Unusually for me however, the inherent unlikability of the characters didn’t stop me from wanting to know what happened to them. For Your Own Good is the true definition of a page-turning read and Samantha Downing really keeps the tension high with plenty of twists and unexpected revelations right up until the final pages. I definitely see what was coming and was often left reeling from a character death, shocking reveal, or sudden turn of events.
And whilst all of the characters were, in their own ways, quite unpleasant and difficult people to be around, I found their perspectives unique and interesting. Teddy, for example, operates using a weirdly twisted logic and seems to genuinely believe that his extreme methods and personal vendettas are in the best interests of those he targets. Another character is wholly motivated by revenge – and whilst her investigation of Teddy is undoubtedly uncovering the truth about him, you’re left wondering whether she’s doing the right thing for entirely the wrong reasons. Similar uncertainties can be found within all of the characters and, for me, it definitely elevated the novel above the realm of the run-of-the-mill psychological thriller.
For Your Own Good won’t be for everyone – if you need a sympathetic viewpoint character, you might want to steer clear – but for fans of psychological thrillers there is much to enjoy here and readers already familiar with the work of Sarah Pinborough, Louise Candlish, and J P Delaney would do well to check out Samantha Downing’s latest!
For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing is published by Penguin Michael Joseph and is available now from all good booksellers and online retailers including Hive, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, and Wordery.
If you can, please support a local indie bookshop by ordering from them either in person or online! Some of my favourites include Booka Bookshop, The Big Green Bookshop, Sam Read Booksellers, Book-ish, Scarthin Books, and Berts Books.
My thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy of the book in return for an honest and unbiased review and for organising and inviting me onto this blog tour. The tour continues until 20 September 2021 so do check out the other stops for more reviews and content.
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