On a train with her husband, miles from home and their four-year-old son, Ben, Sophie receives a chilling phone call. Two boys are in hospital after a tragic accident. One of them is Ben.
She thought she could trust Emma, her new friend, to look after her little boy. After all, Emma’s a kindred spirit—someone Sophie was sure she could bare her soul to, despite the village rumours. But Sophie can’t shake the feeling that she’s made an unforgivable mistake and now her whole family is in danger.
Because how well does she know Emma, really? Should she have trusted her at all?
Time is running out. Powerless to help her child, still hours from home, Sophie is about to discover the truth. And her life will never be the same.
The Friend tells the tale of struggling mother, Sophie and, in part, her budding friendship with another mother; Emma – who has just moved to the small village of Tedbury. Right from the start, you know that there is something dreadfully wrong and The Friend carefully picks the journey – in a broken narrative – giving an in-depth character study of Sophie and her family.
As the main character, I found Sophie to be engaging, honest and endearing. I really felt for the problems that life has thrown in her path and could easily sympathise with her choices in life and how they seem to not be the right ones after all. She is a full-time mother to four-year-old Ben and deeply engaged with life in her small home village away from her husbands growing business in London, the work-life commute adding a strain on their relationship. Then along comes Emma and Theo (Her young son), a new friend to come and safe the day, like a breath of relief. But, we know from the establishing chapter that something has already gone horribly wrong and Sophie doesn’t want Emma anywhere near her son. The pace is rapid and throughout the rest of the book, there is a mounting sense of tension that is re-established every time we’re given a ‘Now’ chapter to read. The Friend is presented in two timelines, ‘Before’ and ‘Now.’ The ‘Before’ chapters giving a back-story to the growing amount of trials for Sophie to face and where most of the personality of the characters are established.
As another main character, I found Emma grew, and changed, as the novel progressed. Her true colours are revealed and I don’t feel like I have ever had a character stir such wicked emotions. When there are some big reveals about her, I honestly hated her. I say this, but it’s no bad thing. To make a likeable character is easy. To make a character that someone will hate, that’s a lot harder! I can only commend author Teresa Driscoll for creating a character that drove me to tears of hatred. I was so angry at times with Emma and the relationship she had with her son – how she treated him – that I started to dread when chapters with her as the central character because I knew the emotions they would stir.
The plot of The Friend is intriguing and draws you in instantly. You’re faced with several questions that you want answering and finding them out through the progress of The Friend is an enjoyable – if emotional -experience. Why has Sophie left her son with a friend? Why is said friend, suddenly so dangerous to her family? What has happened to give Sophie that huge shift in opinion of Emma within the space of leaving her son behind? There are other events that happen in The Friend that keep the reader engaged and guessing what the end goal is; a murder, time away from Tedbury and developing areas of interest surrounding the mysterious Emma. All of which keeps the reader wondering how it will all pan out. It’s certainly one of those books where you can’t look away – or stop thinking about it during non-reading time.
There are some other characters in the novel that help continue the feeling of foreboding and kinship. Helen; one of Sophie’s friends – who lives away – but comes to the foreground during one section of the book. She is a charming, older woman that helps to relay a distaste for Emma and helps settle the reader’s thoughts about Sophie’s new friend. Melanie; the DI in charge of investigating the murder that takes place in Tedbury and her ‘partner’ Matthew – whose scenes with his daughter are as endearing as Emma’s scenes with Theo are disturbing. They all help bring something to the table in regards to how The Friend pans out. Be it a relief from the tension or the exact opposite.
I found The Friend an easy book to pick up and read and after The Court of the Blind King, it was exactly what I needed to refresh my senses. The language is simple and easy to follow and even the more complicated elements of the broken narrative were painless. It’s a masterful skill like this, displayed by Teresa Driscoll, that make authors shine. The Friend was so accessible to me as a book to pick up and read and I appreciated it all the more. As such, I shall certainly be adding Teresa Driscoll to my ‘authors to buy from again’ list!
My main gripe about The Friend though, is the sudden, abrupt end and how all the loose ends are tied up in an epilogue. While everything prior to this is read in a first-person perspective (during Sophies point of view chapters) so we’re given thoughts, feelings and conversations, the epilogue is a quick ‘wrapping up’ of the story and presented in a more telling way. I found this something of a let-down compared to the rest of the book and was left feeling rather deflated because of it. It was a shame because the rest of the book was a real pleasure to read and I feel like I had a good, solid ending stolen from me. And instead was presented something else entirely. It felt disjointed compared to the rest. However, all the story elements are wrapped up in the epilogue and, despite how it’s presented, The Friend comes to a well-rounded ending.
The Friend is an easy-to-read, fast-paced, yet emotional novel. It’s a phenomenal character driven thriller that has a fine, but somewhat flat-feeling conclusion. Well worth the £1 I paid for it on Amazon/Kindle and makes me eager to try and read more books by the same author; Teresa Driscoll.