About The Book
Mary Shields is a moody, acerbic probation officer, dealing with some of Glasgow’s worst cases, and her job is on the line.
Imprisoned for murdering his wife, Liam Macdowall has published a series of letters to the dead woman, in a book that has made him an unlikely hero – a poster boy for Men’s Rights Activists.
Liam is released on licence into Mary’s care, but things are far from simple. Mary develops a poisonous obsession with Liam and his world, and when her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, Mary will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice … with devastating consequences.
Mary is a probation officer working in Glasgow. She spends her time ensuring that prisoners who have been released on licence are obeying the terms of their release; not hanging around school playgrounds, not drinking alcohol, not taking drugs and making sure that any prospective partner is vetted as a suitable person before engaging in sexual relations. She has worked in social work for her whole career and has been the bread winner whilst her husband has been working on his graphic novels and it is her money that has kept food on the table and put their son through University. Now, her husband is about to hit the big time, their son has moved out and is a lawyer and she has a couple of days worth of flexi time to use, except the flexi clock resets tomorrow and she’s going to lose the hours. She’s also menopausal and when she finds herself under investigation for flexi abuse whilst managing the release of local ‘celebrity murderer’ Liam Macdowell she is tipped over the edge.
When reading I was a little worried that I wasn’t best placed to write a review of this book. I am at a completely different time in my life to the protagonist and the menopause, a major thread of rage which runs through the book, is a little way off for me. I have witnessed it though and have seen how awful it can be (ah, the utter joys of being a woman), and thought that the unflinching portrayal was refreshing, albeit a little terrifying and may have already booked myself in for an appointment to discuss HRT in about 10 years time.
Aside from the rage, Worst Case Scenario has a lot of humour, quick one-liners which I had to re-read to check that Mary had actually said/thought that. The sorts of things you laugh at before your brain catches up to what you are actually laughing at. It’s a funny but kind of sad book all at the same time with humour used as armour to deflect from the realities of sitting in the house of a paedophile and checking his internet browsing history. The darkness seeps in though and as time goes on you realise how broken the system is, that social workers shouldn’t be running soup kitchens from their car boot and managing case loads that a team of 6 people would struggle with.
I really liked this way of showing us how overworked people in social work are and there are small, clever observations which portray how disheartened the staff are. Monday has a different feel to Wednesday for instance, and the flexi machine is a constant source of disgruntlement. Add to this an ever increasing workload an ex-prisoner who knows exactly which buttons to push and the menopause, and something is going to crack. And crack it does. In spectacular style.
It trips along at a great pace with brilliantly sharp writing that kept me turning the page. It positively fizzes with anger at a broken system, the role of women as mother, wife, carer and chief plate spinner and has a plot which is a slow build of mounting horror. It’s great stuff and an entertaining read (if you can call wife murderers, drug addicts and paedophiles entertaining. You know what I mean though).
About The Author
Helen FitzGerald is the bestselling author of ten adult and young adult thrillers, including The Donor (2011) and The Cry (2013), which was longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and is now a major drama for BBC1. Helen worked as a criminal justice social worker for over fifteen years. She grew up in Victoria Australia. She now lives in Glasgow with her husband.
Where You Can Buy It
My thanks to Karen Sullivan of Orenda Books and Anne Cater of Random Things tours for an invitation to the Blog Tour and for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.