In Bloom (Sweetpea #2), by C. J. Skuse

Eight stars

C.J. Skuse is back with the sequel to her twist serial killer novel with more first-person narrative in a world where murder seems to be the easiest way to deal with scumbags. After her successful run of killing a number of sexual offenders, Rhiannon Lewis has been able to push the crimes off on her fiancé, Craig, who was recently picked-up by the authorities. Rhiannon’s drama does not end there, for a workplace tryst left her pregnant and required that she dispose of the baby daddy in short order, though has decided to do so on the sly. Now, with the news breaking that she’s been living alongside a serial killer, Rhiannon is not working, but has moved into her presumptive in-laws’ home, who are led to believe that this baby is their grandchild. Plotting her pregnancy through a first-person narrative, Rhiannon has immersed herself into the life of an expectant mother, though she cannot shake the urge to kill, particularly those who are on the prowl to harm others. Enter the wee one in her belly, which acts as a sort of conscience to steer Rhiannon on the right path. As the urges continue to grow and the authorities start poking around ahead of Craig’s trial, Rhiannon must use her willpower to stay clean and prepare to be the best mother possible. Still, one little murder couldn’t hurt anyone, right? A wonderfully sarcastic and dark story that is sure to entertain the reader throughout. Recommended for those who like a little British humour alongside the insights of a serial killer.

A friend recommended the debut novel in this series, which I found to be decent and definitely a quick read. Returning to see how the pregnancy might add to the flavour of the plot and narrative, I was quite impressed with what Skuse created, so much so that I pushed through the piece in short order. Rhiannon ‘Sweetpea’ Lewis is quite the character, particularly with impending motherhood looming over her. Not only does the reader get to see a little more of her insight into ridding the world of sexual offenders, but also the struggle to regulate her urges in order to prepare for a baby. Rhiannon’s banter, with baby and moms-to-be alike, is a mix of humour and downright struggles to find a balance, which permits the reader to see much of her inner angst. The to and fro with the wee one is quite amusing and does provide an interesting subplot throughout the piece. A handful of others cross paths with Rhiannon, creating an interesting dynamic as she seeks to show little sign of panic or concern, while things are almost out of control below the surface. The story takes some interesting plot twists and provides the reader with some interesting perspectives, from trips with her pregnancy group to life living with in-laws and even some luring of paedophiles through internet websites. The reader can see, through a first-person narrative, what makes Rhiannon tick, which includes some of her ‘list of things I hate’ that appear to open specific chapters. Of note, Skuse has chosen to plot the pregnancy with gestation dates rather than the traditional chapter numbers, allowing the reader to see the ongoing progression of things, with helps also to explain Rhiannon’s struggles as her pregnancy progresses. Fast-paced and told with blunt honesty, the book is one that complements the first novel quite well, though surely could be read as a standalone.

Kudos, Madam Skuse, for a wonderful piece. I am eager to see where to take things from here, should you decide to build on the series.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: