Tina is a bright and imaginative child. She is a daddy's girl. But one day, her father walks out of her life. Tina is relentlessly bullied at school and doesn't fare much better at home with her sullen mother. One thing Tina does have going for her is her intelligence. After one attack too many, the rage that Tina has bottled up over the years suddenly erupts in a verbal assault on her tormentor.
The old adage, "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me" is well and truly exposed for the nonsense that it is. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of the bullies' onslaught will surely empathize with Tina. Patrick Redmond's prose is bitingly accurate as he describes the girl's misery. However, after she manages to outsmart one bully, she is infused with self-confidence and takes on all-comers with her witty put-downs.
At first, I thought this would turn into a story of revenge similar to Martyn Bedford's excellent Acts of Revision where the main character takes revenge on the teachers who made his schooldays so hellish. However, `All She Ever Wanted' takes a different route towards its devastating conclusion.
In adulthood, Tina, now reinvented as Chrissie, has grown into a beautiful young woman. Now, she despise weakness, perceived or otherwise. Relationships are kept at arm's length; love equals weakness. Control must always be maintained, and a tongue-lashing to anyone who might break through her tough persona. Some of her bile-soaked insults, you feel sure, will end in violence, but those on the receiving end are remarkably forgiving. If the novel's lead character had been male, this would have been a much greater flaw than it is here.
This is an engrossing psychological thriller that could perhaps have benefitted from a little more editing. There are times when the story seems to read more like a soap-opera than a thriller as we follow Chrissie from one social encounter to another: bars, restaurants and parties feature a lot. However, the author really succeeds in keeping the tension simmering. In all the social whirl, you know it's only a matter of time before something horrible is going to happen.
This is the first time I've read a Patrick Redmond novel, so I can't give an opinion as to whether or not this novel is any better or worse than his other work. I can say that he's an excellent writer. He has a particular talent with dialogue and is not afraid to allow the characters to develop through conversation rather than descriptive narrative. I'll certainly be reading more of his work. I'd also recommend the aforementioned Martyn Bedford's `Acts of Revsion' and Jonathan Baine's Unwound which are also excellent character-driven thrillers.