Teddy Crutcher won Teacher of the Year at 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 the tragic death of a school parent doesn’t distract him.
Even when rumours start to say 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 . . .
Yes!!!! Yes! I’m so relieved! This was great. In 2019 I read one of the best mystery debuts I’d ever read, My Lovely Wife, and then I was beyond disappointed with the author’s next outing in 2020, He Started It. They were world’s apart for me, so to say I’ve been incredibly anxious about For You Own Good, isn’t even covering it. But this was everything and more I was hoping for!
Welcome to Belmont Academy, one of the best private schools that prepare students for Ivy League colleges and churn out future leaders. The school is so successful because its teachers really care about helping its students. Well, except for one. Teddy Crutcher hates how entitled some of his students are, and loves to “teach” them lessons, say, by low grading papers when it really is an A+ paper. That’s how Teddy and Sonia, a fellow colleague, and Zach, one of their students, comes to blows. Their disagreement on how to be the best influence on their student sets into motion a tragically thrilling series of events, that’ll ruin the school’s reputation and maybe even everyone’s lives.
For Your Own Good is an intoxicating exploration of the worst traits of people. Through the book’s setting of a prestigious private school, the book is packed with elitism, entitlement, arrogance and serious superiority complexes…All of which cumulates to dastardly plotting, a possessive need for revenge and so much murder.
Everyone’s miserable and they’re all terrible. For Your Own Good has terrific characterisation. No one is likeable, which was precarious at times since I tend to need at least one likeable narrator, but Downing balanced out the perspectives well to not alienate me and completely discourage me from continuing. Downing is the best author I’ve read who can craft complex and dislikable characters, yet still keep me engaged.
I honestly didn’t know who to root for in this. On the one hand, you’ve got Teddy who genuinely thinks being hard on his students is a form of disciplining them, rather than terrorising them. Then you’ve got Sonia, who is so self-involved with how much she cares about her image manifests as appearing to care about her students, rather than caring about how well she’s liked. She reminded me so much of Mrs Richardson from Little Fires Everywhere. Then there’s the side characters, like Zach and his parents, and Teddy’s previous student Fallon, all of who are deeply flawed as well.
Basically… they’re all awful… but in an awfully fun and entertaining way.
My only criticism of the book is I felt the climax took its while to get to the point. The last 10-15% felt really spun out. But on the whole I really enjoyed the way the story was spun. We know the crime that’s been committed and its outcome, so the story builds around all the potential ways someone could be the culprit. It was thrilling to see everyone suspicious of and villainising one another, and their subsequent anxiety and paranoia multiplying. My mind was jumping from theory to theory along with the characters.
If you love Downing’s other books, especially My Lovely Wife, you can’t miss this. It’s the perfect thrill to get caught up in this summer. With short and punchy chapters, combined with alternating perspectives, the momentum was great from the beginning to the very last page. Can’t wait to see what Downing writes next!
Thank you kindly to Michael Joseph and Netgalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for this honest review.