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.
Continuing on my current stream of mystery/thriller books, I decided to give this book a shot after I saw the movie. In a rare twist – the movie was actually far, far better than the book. Where the movie soars with suspense, drama, and humor – this book barely scrapes by with bland characters, a much less interesting plot, and a terrible ending.
There isn’t a single likable character in this book. Further – there are very few interesting characters in this book. Stephanie is aggressively bland and seems to only make poor choices, making it hard to like her, let alone root for her. The only time she shines is when she discovers that Emily is not quite as dead as everyone thinks she is. Emily (the not-so-dead wife of Sean) is the only interesting character in this book. She fakes her own death, constantly fools the people around her, and still is a dedicated mother. Her narration is possibly the only thing that kept me reading this book. Sean, Emily’s husband, is a boring pushover with the personality of a slice of Wonder Bread. He has no chemistry with either of his love interests, and he constantly mocks the intelligence of others despite consistently being the most clueless character. Altogether, it’s a cast of boring and under-defined characters – completely forgettable after you turn the last page.
The most important part of a good thriller is a plot that keeps you glued to the book. I’ll be honest, the first half of this book showed some promise, but all of the build up was never delivered upon in the second half of the book. The pacing went to tatters, the story’s twists were tedious and not exciting, and worst of all: the story was very predictable. The ending of the movie was so much better – it gave a sense of conclusion and wrapped up all the character’s story arcs neatly. In the book, on the other hand, the ending is left open ended. While that can be a powerful way to end a book, it just felt like a cop out and gave no payoff for the plot. It really felt like there should have been at least two more chapters to finish the story properly, but instead it was like the author hit her deadline and just stopped writing.
Skip reading A Simple Favor and do yourself a favor (pun intended) and just see the movie adaptation. It takes the same core idea for the story and develops it far more effectively and makes the characters more well defined and interesting. 2/5.