A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
eBook review copy; 304 pages
A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell is a highly recommended, twisty domestic thriller.
Stephanie's best friend Emily is missing. Stephanie is a young widow
and stay-at-home mommy blogger, so it must
have been fate that she and Emily, a PR executive for a fashion
designer, would hit it off so well. Before she went missing, Emily asked
a simple favor from Stephanie, one that best friends can ask of each
other and one that she had asked many times before: could Stephanie pick
up Emily's son Nicky after school? Stephanie's son, Miles, and Nicky
are best friends and both 5 years-old, so of course Stephanie said yes.
Isn't that what best friends do for each other?
But then Emily doesn't come to pick up Nicky. She isn't answering her
phone calls or texts. Emily's husband, Sean, is traveling overseas on
business. Perhaps Stephanie misheard Emily and she meant keep Nicky
overnight, but she certainly wouldn't have meant she'd be gone for six
days. What has happened to her best friend? Stephanie turns to her many
readers on her mommy blog and asks for help locating her best friend.
Her readers know how lonely she was before she and Emily became friends,
so they will understand how distressing her disappearance is for
Stephanie and her son. Then Sean returns home, and he and Stephanie
begin to spend time together, bonding over Emily's disappearance. When
Emily's body is found, Stephanie and Sean begin to find more than just
solace in each other's company.
The narrative is told from three points of view, starting with
Stephanie. Then, in turn, we hear from Emily and Sean. Nothing is quite
what it seems in this very addictive thriller. All the narrators are
disagreeable and unreliable. There are more than enough lies, secrets,
and schemes kept by all the characters. Stephanie is the main voice, and
she is full of more than enough anxiety and insecurities, which she
overshares about in an untruthful manner on her blog. She, too, is
hiding secrets. But, by far, the bigger secrets are Emily's.
I'm going to be honest here: I wasn't sure I could continue reading A Simple Favor
at the beginning when it was focused on Stephanie's point-of-view and
her blog entries. Mommy blogs are something I have always studiously
avoided reading and Stephanie's entries were downright cloying, as well
as annoying. What the blog entries do manage is to highlight the
difference between what she wrote and reality. Once Stephanie and Sean
begin their affair you really begin to question the intelligence of all
these people. I pushed on, hoping the missing friend would add more
interest - and she surely did. Once the narrative turned to Emily's
voice, things began to get much more interesting.
While I found A Simple Favor to be generally well written, having
Stephanie be the lead, start-off character was a bit of a misstep for
me, as was Emily's plan. Although the plot is nothing earth-shatteringly
unexpected, the tension rises considerably when Emily's thoughts are
shared. It was at this point that A Simple Favor became
unputdownable for me. Whereas Stephanie is annoying and naive, Emily is
smart, likely a psychopath, and playing a long-con. Yeah, her plan
doesn't quite seem realistic. She's unlikeable and
treacherous, but in a way that makes you wonder what her next move is
going to be - and she has some doozies. My rating kept going up as I was
reading. The ending was pitch-perfect.
My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins for TLC.