Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: A Simple Favor

Summary: She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems. A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page. -- Harper

I am beginning to hate the comparisons to GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. Don't get me wrong -- I enjoyed both of those books, but why oh why do all thrillers with a female protagonist have to be compared to these two books? It's just not fair. I'll admit that I was tempted to push A SIMPLE FAVOR by Darcey Bell aside after reading the description above, but my curiosity got the best of me. The book sounded like one I'd enjoy. Booklist gave it a starred review, and the film rights have already been sold to Fox 2000. Why not give it a try, right?

A SIMPLE FAVOR begins with just that... a simple favor of one mom asking another mom to watch her child. Stephanie, a stay-at-home mom to five-year-old Miles as well as a mommy blogger, was asked by the glamorous Emily to pick up her son Nicky from school and watch him until she can get back. Stephanie considers Emily her very best friend, so of course, she agrees to this "simple favor."

The kicker is Emily doesn't come back nor does she respond to Stephanie's many calls and texts. This behavior isn't typical of Emily, so Stephanie immediately expects the worst. She blogs about the entire experience to her audience of moms while also reaching out to Emily's handsome husband Sean. When Emily is found dead, Stephanie and Sean take comfort in each other. Yep -- you know where this one is going?

Stephanie is happy with her new situation as mom to Nicky and Miles and lover to Sean; however, she does harbor some guilt. She begins to suspect that Emily isn't dead... and that Emily wants revenge for trying to replace her so soon after her "death." Stephanie isn't quite sure what to think about Emily's death or Sean's involvement in it, but she fears her life and her son's life just might be at risk.

A SIMPLE FAVOR was one messed story that I found quite entertaining. I can totally see it as a movie, and as I was reading, I was trying to picture who would be cast as the three principal characters. The novel is fast-paced with lots of twists, and I liked how the author told the story through the eyes of the Stephanie, Emily, and Sean. I also thought the inclusion of Stephanie's blog posts gave some additional insight into the insecurity of Stephanie's character. However, I have to say that the characters were rather unlikable (or at least, that's how I felt), and I really didn't root for them or even care what happened to them for that matter.

One thing I will say about the two women in this story, Stephanie and Emily, is that they were both pretty complex. They had similar dysfunctional childhoods which could have been a bonding experience, and they also had many, many secrets. As a result, I wasn't entirely sure who to believe -- both narrators were a little unreliable. As the novel progressed, I found myself not entirely believing that either of them were realistic characters, but they were interesting!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I had an unusual reaction to certain parts of this novel. There were a few times when the plot just didn't seem to ring true to me. I can't put my finger on any specific examples, but I do remember thinking that some of the actions of the characters just didn't make sense. I don't know that these things affected my overall appreciation of this novel, but they did stand out to me enough that I was thinking there were a few plot holes.

If you are willing to suspend reality for a bit and just want to be entertained by a twisted story, then I think you'll enjoy A SIMPLE FAVOR. It's a great blend of secrets, lies, betrayals, and love that I definitely found to be a page-turner!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

I'm with you on all the comparisons. This sounds like it would be hard to put down!

Mystica said...

I think the story sounds so intriguing. Thanks for the review.

The Book Sage said...

I think the key to your review is the comment regarding not caring about the characters. That's a big deal to me. If I don't have an emotional connection with at least some of the main protagonists, then a book can only grab me so much. It still sounds like an interesting read, though.

Steve Capell said...

Fantastic review. I have added this one to my reading list. Thank you.