Keep Your Friends Close – Paula Daly

Natty and Sean Wainwright and their two teenage daughters live an affluent life in the Lake District, running an upmarket hotel. Life hasn’t always been so good – Natty and Sean’s university aspirations fell by the wayside with an unexpected pregnancy in their first year. They married, settled down, and starting with a small B&B, moved onward and upward gradually, until we meet them in the high class hotel they own, and run, together.

Eve, Natty’s best friend from Uni, is visiting when Natty and Sean get a call – Felicity, their youngest daughter is on France on a school trip, and has been rushed to hospital with appendicitis. Natty heads straight over to be by her daughter’s side, with the intention that Sean will follow. However, as Eve offers to stay on to help take care of Alice and the family home, and Felicity’s condition stabilizes, Natty realises it makes more sense for Sean to remain at home, keeping the hotel running smoothly.

Soon she arrives home with a recovered Felicity, only for it to be apparent Sean has something BIG to tell her. It doesn’t take Natty long to get him to reveal that, during the 10 days she was in France, he has fallen in love with Eve, and now wants to be with her.

From hereon in, the novel becomes, basically, a battle of wills between the two former best friends – both of whom have secrets about each other they don’t want revealed. But Eve appears to have even more secrets, which Natty goes in search of in order to discover: just who exactly is this former best friend who has cuckolded her?

There are several interesting minor characters, who flesh out the main characters, and they are well-drawn and provide some light relief: Natty’s adored dad, Ken; his no-nonsense, sensible carer (and lady friend) Jackie; DC Joanne Aspinall, who is, coincidentally Jackie’s aunt, and becomes involved in this fractured family after Natty rams Eve, who is driving Sean’s Maserati, in a fit of anger at the woman who’s stolen her husband (and who wouldn’t? I thought at this point, cheering Natty!) There’s also a great ending, with a very neat twist!

The book is ultimately about secrets, and no matter how deep one can try to bury them, there’s never a guarantee they’ll stay buried. And, of course, it asks, how well do we REALLY know anyone, apart from what they tell us? I’ve read several books in the last year or so about families being threatened by outsiders – it appears to be something of a fashion in fiction right now, as I’ve already blogged about, and Paula Daly certainly knows how to keep us furiously turning pages! I’ve got her debut novel, Just What Kind Of Mother Are You?, in the stacks, and I’ll be looking forward to reading that one. If you enjoyed, for example Samantha Hayes’ Until You’re Mine, or any such family-oriented psychological thrillers, this is definitely one for you.

Thanks to Random House UK for the review galley.

4 out of 5

Should we have more “normal” cops in crime fiction?

An article in The Guardian this week quotes the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police, Mr Nick Gargan, saying the portrayal of police officers in crime fiction is inaccurate. We are used to our main characters being “damaged goods” – drinking too much, paying little attention to the orders of superiors, having no life beyond each case (which will then go on to take over said life), leaving a trail of disastrous relationships in their wake (with partners, children, parents, siblings…) Could we imagine John Rebus going home to a nice semi, with a nice wife, eating a healthy meal, watching Location x3, then going to bed in his tastefully decorated bedroom? It wouldn’t make for very exciting books, and I certainly prefer the Rebus who falls asleep in his living room after a night in the Oxford Bar, a glass of good malt by his side, and Alex Harvey or Exile on Main Street on the turntable – no iPod or even CDs for Rebus.

Of COURSE we all know crimes are solved by teams of detectives, not “lone wolves” who disappear on a “hunch”, but, again, that wouldn’t make for a dramatic read. The clue, Chief Constable Gargan, is in the name – it’s called crime “fiction” for a reason. And I can’t see it becoming more realistic any time soon.