Book review: The Friend by Dorothy Koomson

The Friend by Dorothy Koomson
The Friend by Dorothy Koomson
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Can you ever really know your friends?

Dorothy Koomson, much-loved author of a string of best-sellers including The Chocolate Run, That Girl from Nowhere and My Best Friend’s Girl, explores one of her favourite subjects – female friendships – in this clever and compelling new novel.

An acute observer of people, Koomson has the gift of digging beneath the skin of her characters to bring us their everyday hopes and fears, and the gritty realities of life and love in contemporary society.

Secrets, lies, fractured friendships, treachery and troubled relationships simmer beneath this intriguing, page-turning tale about a group of school gate mothers who might just have murder on their minds.

After her husband’s big promotion, Cece Solarin arrives in Brighton from London with their three children, ready to start a new life by the sea. But when Cece drops off her twin boys for their first day at a smart prep school, she quickly realises that something is seriously wrong in the neighbourhood.

Three weeks earlier, Yvonne Whidmore, a very popular multi-tasking, homemaker mum, was brutally attacked and left for dead in the school grounds. She now lies in a coma in hospital, much to the distress of her husband and two daughters, and the hunt goes on for the attacker.

Anxious about her children’s safety and protective about her own secret past, Cece finds the school gate mothers very cool and cliquey until she is befriended by local trio Maxie, Anaya and Hazel, all very different, all harbouring devastating secrets and all part of a close social circle that used to include Yvonne.

The three women make her feel welcome and reassure her about her new life in Brighton, and Cece is soon sharing their cosy nights in with cocktails and knitting. But tensions are increasingly high in the group and Cece becomes convinced that they are hiding something serious.

When she eventually discovers that the police believe one of her new friends tried to kill Yvonne, Cece is shocked and frightened that these people she was starting to trust could actually be dangerous.

Reluctant to spy on her friends but determined to discover the truth, Cece must uncover the identity of the attacker before another person is injured… or killed.

Koomson works her special kind of storytelling magic as we move between the narratives of Cece and her three friends, delving into their secrets, discovering why each might be glad to have Yvonne out of the way and learning more about the night of the attack.

Each character is superbly drawn and the suspense carefully ratcheted up as the truth is slowly revealed and the reader left questioning where we draw the line between right and wrong.

Thought-provoking, gripping and tingling with tension, The Friend is the perfect partner for long summer nights…

(Century, hardback, £12.99)