In Bloom by C. J. Skuse

The Blurb On The Back:

Rhiannon Lewis should be happy.

Her cheating fiancé is in jail – framed for the depraved killing spree she committed.

Her ex lover has been chopped up and is buried in the garden.

But there’s one small problem. She’s pregnant.

And much as Rhiannon wants to continue working her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

Now she has to choose between motherhood or murder.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s immediately after the end of SWEET PEA. Rhiannon has AJ’s body in her bedroom and there’s just been a knock at the door. Fearful that the police has seen through her elaborate framing of Craig, she’s got to dispose of his body and continue to play the role of shocked and ignorant fiancée. This means moving in with Craig’s dull parents Jim and Elaine while she rides out both the media interest in her, and updating AJ’s Facebook site so his aunt Claudia doesn’t realise he’s dead. But DI Géricault doesn’t seem to buy Rhiannon’s act and there’s an additional problem – one that she never expected: she’s pregnant. Worse, the foetus is talking to her and it doesn’t want her killing people any more …

C J Skuse’s sequel to SWEET PEA is another exuberant and fun black comedy thriller packed with vulgarity and horror and a pregnancy that’s used to add further moral ambiguity and although the pacing slows at times and Rhiannon is helped by some convenient allies, there’s an interesting subplot involving a pregnant woman in an abusive relationship and the novel ends with a great set-up for the final book, which I will definitely be reading.

Skuse really explores Rhiannon’s character in this book using the pregnancy to bring out her humanity and maternal instincts but the black humour means this never becomes sentimental with the foetus proving to be as stubborn and manipulative as its mother. At the same time Skuse cleverly leaves it open as to whether the foetus is really in control or whether this is just a manifestation of a suppressed part of Rhiannon’s personality that wants to put a stop to her homicidal tendencies and feels guilt for what she did to AJ, who really did love her.

Skuse doesn’t stint in the horror of Rhiannon’s actions, especially in her manipulation of the broken Lana and incarcerated Craig who is slowly waking up to the source of his predicament. Knowing what Rhiannon is capable of also lends tension to a lot of her interactions as she replaces the PICSOs with Elaine’s disapproving and hypocritical church group and the Pudding Club of expectant mothers and forms a friendship with Marnie, who’s married to a controlling husband and leads to some hilarious scenes (a barbeque where Rhiannon gives advice to a child who’s been picked on had me in stitches).

The plot does slow in places and I found some of the scenes where Rhiannon and foetus argue about her killing to be a little repetitive at times. I also found some of the sources of support for Rhiannon (notably the return of Heather Wherryman and the introduction of an old friend of Rhiannon’s father) was a little too convenient.

However the book ends with heartbreak and a fantastic twist that serves as a perfect set-up to the final book in the trilogy and given what Rhiannon wants to do next, I will definitely be checking it out.

IN BLOOM was released in the United Kingdom on 9th August 2018. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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