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A(nother) Review – How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

This is a (rough) transcript of Bert’s review on The Bert’s Books Podcast – first published Monday 9th August. You can find The Bert’s Books Podcast wherever you get your podcasts from or online here



I have been waiting to get my hands on this book for a while now, it was read by a friend of mine who really enjoyed it and thought that I might as well. It’s called How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie.

Bella previously wrote a non-fiction book called Jog On about running, but this is her first fiction and it’s a really strong debut.

I really like the cover – it’s a strong look. The block capitals really stand out among the pink and it doesn’t quite end up being what you think it might be. It’s a really unique look and perhaps belies a more innocent story than what is inside.


The Blurb

 * Kill my family

* Make a claim on their fortune

* Get away with the above

* Adopt a dog

Meet Grace Bernard. Daughter, sister, colleague, friend, serial killer…

Grace has lost everything. And now she wants revenge. How to Kill Your Family is a fierce and addictive novel about class, family, love… and murder.


The Plot

Grace Bernard is currently in jail – for a murder she claims not to have committed. My first question is, do we believe her? I think, yes, we do – because she’s so upfront about the murders she has committed.


We don’t know from the beginning whose murder she is in prison for – the chapters alternate between Grace in prison and then it goes back to her life before, and her previous murders.


The first murder she commits – and this is told really early on, and gives you a taste of what to expect. Growing up, her father didn’t want to know anything about Grace’s life, and she finds out that his parents were somewhat responsible for his absence – this puts them on the top of her hit-list.


She travels to their home abroad, follows them around for a few days to learn their patterns… and then runs them off the road, killing them.


That’s fairly simple, but the beauty in this book comes in how she goes about concocting her plan, and also the way she justifies killing off various members of her family.


Despite being a murderer, you’re instantly on Grace’s side, you want her to get away with things, you want to follow her onto her next murders – even when she’s having reservations over killing some members of the family, you get why she ultimately decides to go ahead.


It’s funny and melodramatic in some ways – but that’s no bad thing. Melodrama just means a sensational, dramatic piece with exaggerated characters and exciting events intended to appeal to the emotions.


That’s pretty much ALL books – so I never really understand why melodramatic gets used as a negative label sometimes. For me it’s a positive thing – not everyday events, but exciting with great characters.


The best thing, is that she gets away with it, nobody knows, nobody finds out… or does she? She’s telling us about this in prison where she is languishing for the murder of someone else – but is she setting herself up for a fall?


She is so confident in what she’s done and how she’s getting away with it, but can she really be this clever? She’s in prison after all, so some mistakes have been made… and what other mistakes might she have made?


She has a weakness, a vulnerability, something has caused her to end up inside, maybe that will come back to haunt her.


Bert’s Verdict

It’s really clever and I liked the ending, though I felt the ending itself might have gone on slightly too long and became a little repetitive. But this a great debut novel with fantastic character and I can’t wait to see what Bella Mackie does next.



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