Wednesday, 30 May 2018
Friend Request by Laura Marshall
I tend not to buy books which are lauded as "the most addictive psychological thriller you'll read this year" or "the most anticipated thriller of the year" etc, as they often do not live up to expectations.
Friend Request by Laura Marshall had raving reviews and endorsements from Jenny Colgan, Marian Keyes and Erin Kelly.
I picked it up recently, browsing books (guiltily, I must admit, as I should stop buying paperbacks) at The Works, and got my 3 for £5 fix. It is an addiction, and my pile of books is ever-growing. Though I read regularly, and then take them to the charity shop, the ratio of read to bought is quite disproportionate. I do need to join a club of Bookaholics Anonymous.
These days it seems almost a rarity, when someone doesn't have any social media accounts. There are of course such atypical creatures - my Mum is one of them, but it appears most of us do dabble in one or the other social account, and share personal lives on several platforms.
Not surprising, that there are books being written about the dangers and perils of over-sharing lives on social media, when we unwittingly leave ourselves open to "stranger danger".
I can't say that I'm living my life on social media, and I do take it with a big pinch of salt. One has to be very naive to believe everything you see in staged images of perfect life. Just read the numerous threads on Mumsnet regarding the lack of transparency and exploitation of children by Instamums, but I digress.
For me Facebook is a way of connecting with people with whom I'd otherwise wouldn't be able to keep in touch, like some of my school mates, or friends who live abroad.
My Facebook circle is quite limited in comparison these days, I have culled the list of friends, but when I joined Facebook, I remember befriending people who I had not known much about (i.e. the only thing we had in common was our love of comping, or cooking).
Of course, you can never be too careful about what friend requests you accept.
Would you accept a friend request from someone who has been presumed dead for over 25 years?
But Louise, the main protagonist of the book, did.
"Maria Weston wants to be friends with me. Maybe that was the problem all along; Maria Weston wanted to be friends with me, but I let her down. She's been hovering at the edge of my consciousness for all of my adult life, although I've been good at keeping her out, just as a blurred shadow in the corner of my eye, almost but not quite out of sight.
Maria Weston wants to be friends.
But Maria Weston has been dead for more than twenty-five years."
Louise is a single working Mum, who is devoted to her 4-year-old son Henry. She is still emotionally hankering after her ex-husband who left her for a younger woman when she got pregnant. The other woman barely features in the book, but I don't have much compassion for someone who has an affair with a married man, knowing there is a very young child involved.
Louise accepts the friend request from Maria, because she has a guilty secret which goes back to the night when Maria has gone missing. Her body was never found, and she was later presumed dead.
Flashbacks to high school days show just what a piece of shit Louise was, siding up with the obnoxious bullies who enjoyed their power and made Maria's life as miserable as possible.
Twenty five years later, Louise is still struggling with her guilt (and rightly so). Louise has changed, but I still wouldn't call her a likeable character. She clearly enjoys her drink, and in many ways is not sensible enough. Though being dumped by her horrid husband, she is not mature enough to cut clean all the links with him. And knowing the extent of the dominating relationship she had with him in the past, I don't understand why she's still all a-tremble in his presence.
After accepting the friend request, Louise starts receiving menacing messages from Maria. She is followed, watched and threatened. With the class reunion looming, she cannot avoid uncomfortable questions and tries to find out what has really happened to Maria.
The story has a clever plot. with an ambiguous twist at the end. Is the killer truly dead, or will they come back to wreak revenge?
The dynamics of teenage girls' friendships is believable and sadly true to life.
As a debut novel, it is an accomplished achievement, and I will be keeping an eye on new releases from Laura Marshall.
There are some issues with the plot that have been niggling at my mind.
I found the short chapters in Italics rather confusing, and still don't quite know who wrote them. Wife no.1 or no.2? They are never explained properly.
At some point I thought it was Louise's old friend Esther writing about her over-protective husband, but again, this line doesn't seem to go anywhere. Why was he so over-nannyish towards his wife during the reunion?
The idea that Louise would risk the life of her child and herself and keep the information from police beggars belief. She couldn't seriously consider she would be prosecuted for what she did 25 years ago. The motivation of her actions was not credible, and the incompetence of police is a joke.
Have you read Friend Request? What did you think of it?