For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing
Published by Berkley
Publication date: July 20, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense
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The Teacher of the Year award hanging in Teddy Crutcher’s classroom is his prize possession. He teaches high school English at the exclusive Belmont Academy and while the majority of his students are problematic he still does his best to prepare them for the world ahead. Teddy is one of a varied cast of suspicious characters in Samantha Downing’s new novel, For Your Own Good.
Belmont Academy is the epitome of entitled students and pushy parents. When the head of the PTA dies at a school event honoring another teacher Teddy is more than a little concerned. While his main focus is pushing his students to excel, he also has side projects involving people he doesn’t like. Namely, making them feel sick, thanks to interesting concoctions he derives from plants. He liked Mrs. Ross, but she may have drunk coffee intended for the teacher being honored, whom he hates. Also, he may have miscalculated the dosage because dying is not the fainting he was going for.
From this dark beginning, For Your Own Good, keeps the crazy train moving faster and faster. The dead mother’s beleaguered daughter is arrested for her murder, making Teddy feel worse because she’s a hardworking student he actually likes. Not like her friend Zach, a smug brat he’d like to see go down for the crime. But how to do it? For his part, Zach is worried about his friend and does make some questionable choices in trying to help her. A teacher dies and the plot twists once again.
This kind of ‘everyone is a suspect’ story could quickly go wrong, but Downing is efficient and thorough in marshalling her characters and plot. I have to respect an author who unabashedly embraces writing an unlikable character. From the beginning it’s clear that Teddy is actually a vindictive, petty autocrat with a beef against the world-at-large. But he’s not alone. There are no likable characters in For Your Own Good—everyone is duplicitous, devious and small-minded. Did it go a skosh too far at the end? Maybe, but I didn’t mind much. The world seems pretty ugly right now so this may not be the right reading for everyone, but if the thriller genre is one you enjoy then read For Your Own Good. It’s a freeing experience to love a novel where you dislike everyone in it.
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