Review: The Bad Seed

September 20, 2010 Whitney Review 6 Comments

Review: The Bad SeedThe Bad Seed
Author William March
Publisher Harper
Publication Date June 28, 2005
Source: Bought

What happens to ordinary families into whose midst a child serial killer is born? This is the question at the center of William March's classic thriller. After its initial publication in 1954, the book went on to become a million–copy bestseller, a wildly successful Broadway show, and a Warner Brothers film. The spine–tingling tale of little Rhoda Penmark had a tremendous impact on the thriller genre and generated a whole perdurable crop of creepy kids. Today, The Bad Seed remains a masterpiece of suspense that's as chilling, intelligent, and timely as ever before.

“Later that summer, when Mrs. Penmark looked back and remembered, when she was caught up in despair so deep that she knew there was no way out, no solution whatever for the circumstances that encompassed her, it seemed to her that June seventh, the day of the Fern Grammer School picnic, was the last day of her happiness, for never since then had she known content or felt peace.”

This paragraph opens The Bad Seed and immediately sets the tone of the novel:   An unthinkable tale of deception.

William March’s The Bad Seed examines the root of all evil.  Are persons born as a “bad seed” having it genetically in their blood or is it environmental?  The novel examines this hypothesis through a fictional account of a young girl, Rhoda Penmark.

Rhoda is eight years of age and already a very independent child quite capable of taking care of her needs.  She has an old-fashioned appearance, always wearing dresses as they are thought to be more ladylike and pigtails ironically drawn up in precise hangman-nooses.

Because of her efficiency in everything Rhoda does she is very upset when the coveted Penmanship Medal is  awarded to Claude Daigle.  Later, during the Fern picnic Claude is found dead, supposedly falling off the forbidden wharf having drowned with the penmanship medal missing.  While named as a very unfortunate affair, suspicious circumstances are brushed aside including Rhoda being seen skipping  off the wharf.

As the story progresses both her mother, Christine Penmark and the reader become more convinced of her association in the matter and fear for those around her while watching the Penmark’s world unravel.

This book was hard to put down while reading about this devilish girl.  The novel unfolds with skilled slow suspense of this chilling tale about the original Reagan.

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6 responses to “Review: The Bad Seed

  1. The Bad Seed is a very subtle thriller, it was also turned into a play followed by a movie in 1956. The film is a little campy but very enjoyable. I don't think you'd be disappointed with either.

  2. I read this book after seeing the movie, and I have to say I loved it! I read some follow up to it, written by another author, which basically was Rhoda grown up and a mother, but I don't remember it being any good.

  3. I think there's some semi-sequel with Patty McCormack but I don't recall it getting very good reviews. It was such a perfect ending, why mess with it? I feel this way about Gone with the Wind sequels too.

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