Sunday, August 21, 2016

"Keep Your Friends Close" by Paula Daly

Natty Wainwright hurries to France when daughter Felicity is hospitalised after a burst appendix. She has husband Sean stay behind to look after the hotel they own and manage. Her friend from her teenage years, Eve Dalladay, is visiting and figures she will be able to provide some support. Oh boy, does she ever. In Natty's absence, Eve gives Sean a blow-job and in the space of just ten days he's decided he's in love with Eve and leaves Natty for her.

Natty is understandably quite shocked by this turn of events and has trouble coping with what has happened. She rams Eve's car in a fit of rage, and finds herself in trouble with the police, as Eve has sustained significant injuries and is pressing charges. As the days go on, she finds her life being slowly derailed by Eve's shenanigans, as she moves in on Natty's family. Then Natty receives a note saying Eve has done this before....

My biggest issue with Keep Your Friends Close was Natty Wainwright herself. She's a COMPLETE FUCKING MORON. The sequence in which she rams Eve's car seems to be the driving element that kickstarts the story. Natty claims to know that Eve is lying about her injuries, as she was wearing a seatbelt when Natty rammed the car. So? So what? That makes it okay? That means it wasn't a completely stupid immature thing to do? On top of that, it makes no sense. Did Eve somehow psychically know that Natty would do this sort of thing, setting her up with  the perfect opportunity to make Natty look mad and dangerous? As the story wears on, Natty can't seem to remember to bring her wallet to places with her, or do any of the things a normal, educated person would do. She at one stage lets Eve in on where she is and what she's doing. Smart move, Natty! Just give away your whole strategy! It was endlessly frustrating. Basically, many of the situations Natty finds herself in are of her own doing. She deserved what she got.

The other parts work a little better. Eve is definitely an insidious, conniving bitch, and watching her try to destroy Natty and steal her life was quite good on a Lifetime TV-movie level. I would have liked some more antagonism between Eve and Felicity, the daughter who knew she was evil and up to no good. That battle of wills was interesting. I dare say it would have been a far more interesting and suspenseful book if it had been from the viewpoint of Felicity, matching wits with the evil bitch who wants to take over her family.

The detective character of Joanne Aspinall barely needed to be there. That we had two entire chapters devoted to her struggles with her enormous breasts and attempts at a breast reduction were just beyond belief. What the fuck was up with that? Who cares. I remember Joanne also appeared in Just What Kind Of Mother Are You?, Daly's previous novel, but here her presence was superfluous. The deal with her breasts is barely referenced throughout the rest of the book, further rendering it stupid and redundant. What was the point? Urgh.

The wrap-up falls short of satisfaction. Throughout the book we are given glimpses into Eve's apparent previous crimes. This is never followed through. We never learn the full details of Eve's history of fleecing men. Why was Sean a target? Was he particularly rich? Why did she want him??? He's a moron with two bratty daughters - and Eve doesn't like children. It all remains maddeningly elusive. What did she hope to gain?

The very final couple of pages provided a little punch of satisfaction that capped off the story nicely, though.

There were some good parts. Most of it was, however, was reliant upon extreme contrivance, so a lot of it didn't really ring true. The face-slappingly stupid protagonist didn't help much either.

No comments:

Post a Comment