A SIMPLE FAVOUR - by Darcey Bell

A SIMPLE FAVOUR - Darcey Bell.
Published: September 2018 - Pan Macmillan.
Genres: Adult / contemporary / thriller
Pages: 371.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Infrequent bad language / infrequent, explicit sex scenes.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.
She’s your best friend. She knows all your secrets. That’s why she’s so dangerous.

It starts with a simple favour—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When glamorous Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son after school, Stephanie happily says yes. Emily has a life that would make any woman jealous. She is the perfect mother with a dazzling career working for a famous fashion designer in Manhattan. Stephanie, a widow with a son in kindergarten, lonely in their Connecticut suburb, turns to her daily blog for connection and validation. Stephanie imagines Emily to be her new confidante and is shocked when Emily suddenly disappears without a trace, leaving her son and husband with no warning.

Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong. Unable to keep away from the grieving family, she soon finds herself entangled with Sean, Emily’s handsome, reticent British husband. But she can’t ignore the nagging feeling that he’s not being honest with her about Emily’s disappearance. Is Stephanie imagining things? How well did she really know her “best” friend? Stephanie begins to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favour—is as simple as it seems..

I requested this book to read and review because I've been so excited for the movie, and I definitely wanted to read the book before I watched the movie.

Bell's writing is bold, arresting, and razor elegant. There's so much punch to it and I adore the short sentences. However, its real power comes from the strength of the characters' voices, especially Stephanie's. It's written in first person, and the characters' voices are so rich that they make the prose sing. That takes the writing to a whole new level.

In a way, the story is slow. But the intensity is always building and the characters and the writing keep the plot tight. It starts rather unsuspecting, but then the twists start uncoiling and the author starts peeling back the complicated layers of the story. It becomes shocking. The twists get outrageous - yet somehow they work. The tone gets darker and more creepy - but it's utterly bewitching and you can't tear your eyes away because it's so nastily good. If you love gossipy, unpredictable tales of back-stabbing and horrifying scandals, then this novel is for you.

My only issue with the plot is the unsatisfactory ending. It's not enough to ruin the whole story, but it is rushed and mildly frustrating.

 My mother used to say: everyone has secrets. That's why you can never really know anyone else. Or trust anyone. It's why you can never know yourself. Sometimes we even keep secrets from ourselves." 

The characters are the most tantalising anti-heroes. From the first chapter Stephanie's personality is explosive, and as Emily and Sean's point of views are steadily added, they too leap off the page with strong motivations and twisty backstories. Everyone is layered and everyone is hiding something. It's fantastic. In fact, I'd go as far to say the book would have been a flop if the characters hadn't been as strong as they were. They really do make the book. They're so fully realised.

The secondary characters and the relationships are also excellent.  Every person is so effortlessly vivid, and the dynamics between everyone are diverse and utterly scandalous.

A Simple Favour is a sinfully delectable treat of a book.  Gone Girl meets Big Little Lies in a novel where relationships have never been more poisonous, lies more delicious, and agendas more twisted. With bold writing and layered characters, this novel is easily one of my favourites from the year.