This book opens with a series of blog posts by Stephanie, one of our leads. She’s one of those pesky ‘mommy’ bloggers we read about. (And yes, I’m being sarcastic!) Though she does have the annoying habit of using the word ‘mom’ more than any sane adult would, opening each blog post with ‘Hi moms!’ and addressing her readers as ‘moms’ rather than ‘you’ or anything else… just in case a non-mom was to read it.
That aside, her posts set the scene for what’s to come and Stephanie soon finds herself with less time to blog as her life becomes complicated following the disappearance of her best friend Emily.
by Darcey Bell
Published by Pan Macmillan
on March 9th 2017
Genres: Psychological Thriller
It starts with a simple favour - an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another.
When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son from school she happily says yes.Their children are classmates and best friends. And five-year-olds love being together - just like she and Emily. As a widow and stay-at-home blogger mum living in suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a glamorous and successful PR executive.
The trouble is that Emily doesn't come back. No matter what the police say, Stephanie knows that she would never leave her son. Terrified, she reaches out to her fellow mummy bloggers.
And she also reaches out to Emily's husband - just to offer her support.
What Stephanie hasn't shared is the secrets buried in a murky past.
Stephanie mostly annoyed me in the early stages of this book. I enjoyed it more when we switched from her blog to her own narrative… and people disillusioned with social media and online lives will appreciate the fact Stephanie admits she is – at times – not completely honest on her blog. Her blogging diminishes but Bell cleverly uses her blog as a tool, giving us the chance to better understand Stephanie, her secrets and how she communicates.
When Emily first goes missing her husband Sean is overseas, which is a good thing for him as he becomes an obvious suspect. And Stephanie does a 180 on her own perception of her best friend’s husband. Who – bizarrely – she barely knows. I’m probably offering up some spoilers, but she goes from assuming the worst to finding herself attracted to Sean and feeling guilty about that very fact.
We learn that Stephanie’s Stepford Mom routine isn’t entirely the case, as she’s got a few sordid secrets… ones she’s shared with no one but Emily; and though Emily seemed to have the perfect life, it’s not until after her disappearance that Stephanie discovers her friend may not have been as squeaky clean as she’d thought.
There’s a Gone Girl-ish element as this book as we wonder if Emily’s disappearance was merely a case of a woman needing a break, or something more sinister. Or – of course – some bizarre combination of the two.
I mostly guessed one of the twists in this book though Bell draws it out pretty well, and there are a few surprise twists. And a few more added for good measure… seemingly delighting in catching we readers off-guard.
I’m not sure I was ultimately satisfied with the way things worked out (or the way we assume they’ll work out!) but it’s one of those frustratingly clever endings that plays on a reader’s mind for days after they close the book.
A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell was published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and available now.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.