Title: A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell
Genre: Contemporary, mystery
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss
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.
A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell is a surprisingly compelling debut mystery.
A mommy blogger and widowed mother of young son Miles, Stephanie agrees to do her best friend Emily Nelson a rather simple favor: pick up her son Nicky from school and keep him with her until she gets off work later that evening. Since this is something Stephanie does for Emily on a semi-regular basis, she has no reason to believe this favor will be any different than usual. It is not until Emily fails to pick up Nicky later that evening that Stephanie becomes a little concerned but she wonders if she misunderstood her friend. Days pass and Emily has yet to return so Stephanie tracks down her friend’s husband, Sean, who is out of the country on business. Initially, Sean is not alarmed by his wife’s absence but upon his return, he reports Emily’s disappearance to the police whose investigation is rather lackluster until her body is recovered near her family’s vacation cabin. Sean and Stephanie turn to one another for comfort and support but Stephanie begins to wonder if Emily is, in fact, really dead.
In her blog posts, Stephanie is perky, unfailingly upbeat and endearingly honest about her flaws and worries. In real life, she is nowhere near as likable or as seemingly perfect as her online persona. She has struggled to make friends in the small town so she is thrilled when she befriends Emily. Despite the differences in their lives, the two are soon thick as thieves as they exchange confidences and house keys in between play dates and excursions. It is not until Emily’s disappearance that Stephanie begins to wonder if she really knew her friend as well as she thought. While Stephanie felt no compunction about spilling her deepest, darkest secrets (and boy are they doozies!), she soon realizes that she knows very little about her friend’s past.
Despite being best friends with Emily, Stephanie has little information about Sean except for the details Emily shared about him. He works long hours and travels frequently for his job so she spent very little time around him until Emily goes missing. After Emily’s disappearance, she is more than happy to continue helping out with Nicky but she is a little unnerved by her sudden attraction to her friend’s grieving husband. Gradually, the two households merge together when, much to Stephanie’s delighted surprise, their friendship turns into a relationship.
At this point in the story, the tone of the novel shifts and unexpected revelations illustrate how truly naive Stephanie is. She is quite easy to manipulate which makes it very easy to turn her into an unwitting accomplice to a somewhat nefarious and vengeful plot. Incredulous readers will be left shaking their heads as Stephanie transitions from someone who makes morally questionable choices into an empty-headed dupe. There is also very little mystery about the rather unbelievable direction the plot is about to take.
And yet, despite some of the absurd plot twists, A Simple Favor is a compulsively readable novel. Darcey Bell is a gifted storyteller with a twisted imagination and although the storyline is unabashedly predictable and somewhat hard to believe, readers will be captivated by these thoroughly unlikable and somewhat unreliable characters. Although this debut novel is far from perfect, it is a highly entertaining read that I found impossible to put down and highly recommend to fans of the genre.