The Sweetpea Series – CJ Skuse

Published By: HQ
Pages: 384
Released On: 20/04/2017

In Bloom
Published By: HQ
Pages: 384
Released On: 09/08/2018

Dead Head
Published By: HQ
Pages: 480
Released On: 18/02/2021

I wasn’t planning on reviewing these books as they were just books for me to read, rather than books set out to be reviewed. But they are just too splendid not to shout about. Just quickly, unrelated to the books I know, but I found out after reading them that she’s a lecturer at Bath Spa University, which is where I studied a decade ago, which I thought was nice 🙂

I try not to put spoilers in my reviews, but as I’m reviewing three of the series at once, I will say now, THIS DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS. So please, if you’re planning on reading this, maybe don’t read too much into this, as you may find out things that ruin your reading experience. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.


’I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcoholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.’

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret. Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list. A kill list. From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge. Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

I was lent this book by my godmother, and it was only whilst reading it that I wondered why she had thought of me with this book. It is very explicit – in a sexual and a gory way. I know we’re not meant to like Rhiannon. Generally, serial killers are not top of our BFF lists, but I’m sorry, I liked her. She is powerful. Yes she’s doing bad things, we all know that. She doesn’t like her job, makes fun of her colleagues, dislikes her boyfriend, tolerates her in-laws, oh, and goes round killing people, but she does it in a likeable manner to me. She’s one of the best written characters I’ve read. She’s not 100% bad. She kills because it makes her feel good, it relaxes her. Whether this is because of the brain damage she sustained as a child is difficult to say, but she’s doing it for a good reason. Because everyone she kills has been related to sexual offences against women and children. Which sort of makes it okay, doesn’t it?

Her boyfriend Craig is a bit of a wet weekend. Two-timing her with a colleague, who in turn tries to act sweet and innocent whilst at work. Rhiannon is determined to stay with him, if only to make him pay for his indiscretions at the end of it all. There’s other characters such as AJ – the main she has an affair with, and her other colleagues, plus Craig’s parents, her “friends”, and her dog. But for me, this is Rhiannon’s show from the beginning to the end.


Rhiannon knows she’s the murderer. We know Rhiannon is the murderer. Some other characters know Rhiannon is the murderer. And yet, it’s not her who’s behind bars. It’s Craig. They find his DNA at the crime scenes, his semen lingering on a female victim. A cut-off penis in his van. How could they have got there if he wasn’t the culprit? The set-up is absolutely fantastic and it’s such a brilliant pay-off. And even though you know she’s the guilty one, and she’s not exactly hiding it, you will her on, and you want to her to get away with it.

This isn’t just a thriller. It’s funny and sarcastic, sometimes loving and tender. It’s not a horrifying thriller either. Yes, you are provided with the full-on killing descriptions, but it’s done in such a way that it almost sounds sarcastic, and therefore you like reading about it, rather than turning away in disgust. You will find yourself smiling and squirming on the same page.

It’s written in a diary form, which each chapter starting with her kill list. You don’t know why it’s a diary – you’ll find that out in the later books – but it’s a good way of writing it. We get the expose straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

It’s full of fun and flair, red herrings, twists and turns, laughter, hatred, anger, blood, swearing – a lot of swearing – and just the one penis, okay. It is unlike any book I’ve read before.

Let me give you some advice. If you buy this book, buy the second and third alongside. Whilst this book does finish off nicely, it is clear the story hasn’t finished, and we pick up on it at the start of book two, which in turn ends and then continues in book three. It’s one big long story which gives you something to invest in and really fall in love with. Stupendous storytelling and character creation.


Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free. Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop. But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

The sequel picks up practically immediately after the first one ends. We’re at Rhiannon’s home, she has a cut-up ex-lover in her bedroom, a nosy neighbour, and a baby kicking her bladder. How will she ever get away with this? And yet somehow, she does. It helps that her neighbour has Dementia and so is easily confused; it helps that her neighbour has an empty flat and so said ex-lover can be cut up in her bathroom; and it helps if she ignores her baby telling her to stop killing people.

This is just as explicit as the first one. Murder, blood, death, sex, swearing – you name it, it’s in it. But Skuse has found the same balance with the first one. She’s made it exciting and thrilling, but funny, sad, shocking and powerful. With her fiancĂ© arrested for her crimes, she’s high-and-dry. And she doesn’t want this baby. Killing and a baby don’t go together. But when she goes to see about a termination, she changes her mind. Maybe this baby will help curb her murderous rages.

Although, unsurprisingly, that doesn’t last long. She tries, she really does. But there’s some nasty people about. People who have done nasty things to others. To her friends, to children. She can’t just let them get away with it, surely? And with her baby on the way, it makes sense to rid the world of the criminals now, so no-one can harm her child.

She starts to live a ‘normal’ life though. She moves in with Craig’s parents, she feigns the shocked girlfriend, and she starts to believe that maybe she can live a normal life. She will have the baby, raise it like a good mother, and all her urges will go. And again, she tries and tries. But with the world’s press hounding her day in and day out, it’s difficult to ignore her baby’s cries, “telling her” to stop killing people.

And, on the whole, she manages it. There’s a few blips, but they all have good reasons. But there’s one person she cannot let get away. A woman, now with a new identity, who was imprisoned for sexual abuse against babies and children. Surely she can’t be allowed to work, to roam around freely. Not wanting to hurt her in-laws more than she knows she will, she books them on a last-minute surprise holiday, convinces them to take her dog with her, and then she goes into labour – that part wasn’t necessarily on her to-do list though. Immediately recoiling from her baby, she gives her to an ex-colleague, lets her bring her up, and she absconds from the hospital. Straight to the workplace of the newly free paedophile. And there’s no stopping her this time. She is proud of what she’s doing. She literally parades around, with a decapitated head in her hands, in front of the security cameras. There’s no going back now.

And again, somehow, Skuse has made me root for her. She’s a nasty serial killer. She’s framed her fiance. She’s given up her baby. She’s lied to everyone. She has no regrets. So why am I still rooting for her? Why do I still want her to get away with it? I don’t know. I can’t say I approve of murdering people, whether they’re good people or bad people, but the way she’s written, the way it’s all written, this story, is just so fantastic that you can’t help but hope her story continues. Which, as it happens, it does, with…


Since confessing to her bloody murder spree Rhiannon Lewis, the now-notorious Sweetpea killer, has been feeling out-of-sorts. Having fled the UK on a cruise ship to start her new life, Rhiannon should be feeling happy. But it’s hard to turn over a new leaf when she’s stuck in an oversized floating tin can with the Gammonati and screaming kids. Especially when they remind her of Ivy – the baby she gave up for a life carrying on killing. Rhiannon is all at sea. She’s lost her taste for blood but is it really gone for good? Maybe Rhiannon is realising that there’s more to life than death…

Book 3 starts, as before, at the end of the book previous. Rhiannon is on a cruise ship, leaving England and her murdering troubles behind. She’s so desperate to escape, she masquerades as an Australian, slipping in and out of character. She’s paid an enormous amount of money for a new passport, new papers and for a place of sanctuary. But of course, nothing ever goes smooth for Rhiannon. When the first plan falls through, her urges come back. Not everyone on the ship – or off the ship come to that – are safe. After her urges are sated, she strikes up a friendship with an elderly lady who lives on the ship, and finds a type of kinship with her. But she knows better than to make friends.

As soon as they’ve turned a corner, spent more time with each other, opened up a bit, her second chance comes to fruition, and she has to leave, immediately. Abandoning her fellow passengers, she flies to South America, and shacks up with an ex-cartel member in Mexico. It’s a bit hairy again, but for once, Rhiannon feels safe, and she feels useful, and she feels at home. Yes she’s still burying dead men, yes she’s still killing people – but more out of necessity now than fun – but she falls in love. With the country, with the local children, and with a man. Not all of them know her history. They don’t need to. She pays for extensive plastic surgery, and soon, she is unrecognisable to anyone who didn’t know her as Rhiannon. She finally feels free. But this isn’t where the happy ending comes in. There’s a lot of shit that goes down, and she nearly goes down with it.

This is the final book that is currently published, but I have heard on the grapevine that CJ Skuse is bringing out at least one more, which personally I am THRILLED about. Even though I finished reading these a while ago (I read all 3 in one week), I keep thinking I’ll go back to her story, like I haven’t finished it. I’m that desperate for more of her story.

And I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I will repeat myself – I love Rhiannon. Even more so in this book than the previous two. She’s not quite as serial-killery in this one. She’s trying to move on, but it’s difficult. She misses her daughter, the one she never got to see grow up, she misses her family – in a way – and her friends. But she’s been given a second chance. A second chance at love and at family and a life. She’s happy, and we’re happy for her. She’s ‘normal’, for once. And whilst normal can be boring, in her case, it’s scary and exciting, and you’re thrilled for her.

But of course, this isn’t where her story ends. The third book ends a bit ambitiously. Could it be over? Cold she finally have curbed her murderous urges and become part of a loving family? Or could something tip her over the edge? Is there still someone she needs to get rid of? What is she willing to sacrifice to do that?

Overall, these three books are some of the best I’ve ever read. I know this is a long review and I thank you for your patience. But even given that, it’s really hard to fully explain how good these books are. I think it’s only something you can really appreciate if you read them yourself. Maybe you’ve already read them – in which case, please message me on Twitter so we can chat about them because I have feelings!!! Maybe you haven’t read them, but you still wanted to read this, and in doing so, have found out more than you probably should have. But I’m not 100% convinced that matters. Yes, reading the books whilst not knowing the outcome was fun and thrilling and exciting. But even knowing the outcomes, I think they would still be really good stories to read, and you can still appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into the storytelling and character creation – especially over 3 books and 1,000+ pages. Exceptional.

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