Once the movie was announced, per the usual, people flocked into the bookstore asking for Darcy Bell’s debut novel. I’d heard it was a suspenseful thriller, but hadn’t looked a lot into it.
When the opportunity to snag a copy came up, I figured, why not?
A Simple Favor opens with a blog post by Stephanie, a widowed, single mother, asking her followers for help. Her best friend, Emily, has gone missing. Emily, with her perfect life and her perfect son, isn’t the kind of person who would just ditch her life and start over somewhere else. Stephanie knows something is wrong.
When police find a body and confirm it’s Emily, Stephanie does everything she can to help Emily’s husband, Sean, and son, Nicky, cope and find a semblance of normal. She didn’t expect it would involve her moving in and falling for Sean.
But one afternoon, a few months later, Stephanie receives a phone call that turns her life upside down and sets her on the path of finding out what happened to her friend, and why Emily kept so many secrets. And soon she’s caught in the mystery and deceit, fully ignorant of how she’s being used by the people she trusts.
I have mixed feelings on this book, though I can definitely see why people are drawn to it. Stephanie is doing her best to be a perfect mother, but she’s got a few secrets of her own that, while bad enough, aren’t so bad as to make her the center of attention, like she craves. And it seems that she is so caught up in her own secrets that she can’t fathom other people having dark secrets or malicious motives. This sets her up to be used and manipulated by someone psychologically stronger than her.
As for the characters of Sean and Emily, they aren’t what they seem in the first few chapters (obviously). The more you read, the more you find (or I found, anyway) there isn’t anyone in the book you like.
Bell does a good job of throwing in twists to the story, but I easily anticipated all of them. I think that, in making sure the breadcrumb trail was there in foreshadowing, Bell dwelt too much on the breadcrumbs, and made it obvious where the story was going.
Overall, it was well written. And I appreciated the fact that it was a thriller written without it’s whole plot being based on violence/sexual violence toward women. And while Stephanie may not be a reliable character, it’s not because of vice or mental illness, but simply because of her naive and trusting nature.
Although it’s not necessarily a book I’d tell someone they have to read, I’d definitely read a second novel by Bell. I think she’s got the potential, just needs the practice.