Friend Request by Laura Marshall - Published by Sphere in 2017 - ISBN: 978-0-7515-6835-6 (PB)
This is the author’s debut novel and it’s a very promising psychological thriller. Divorced mother Louise juggles her life between running an interior design business from her London home and caring for her four-year-old son, Henry. Ex hubbie Sam, a former classmate for whom she still carries a torch, has remarried but shares custody of Henry. Louise uses Facebook intermittently and one day a friend request reaches her from a former school friend, Maria Weston. What’s so surprising about that you may well ask, but Maria is no more, having departed this earthly world, presumed having taken her own life, 25 years earlier. Louise’s world is turned upside down. She has always harboured guilt about how she joined a clique in school, located in a sleepy Norfolk town, and became complicit in bullying and isolating Maria. A school reunion of the pupils in that fateful year of 1989 beckons. Louise, who has hitherto not bothered to keep in touch with past schoolmates, feverishly contacts those deemed likely to be attending in order to get to the bottom of the mystery. The narrative action bounces between 1989 and 2016. Messages from Maria continue, getting progressively menacing and creepy and keeping Louise in a frantic state of emotional turmoil. Tension mounts, affecting her professional and personal life. The author doesn’t flinch from exploring several hot topics like the ups and downs of online dating, playground and social media bullying, and single working parenthood. I found my concentration slipping since the book takes rather long to reach the denouement so this rendered it somewhat less spine chilling than it deserves to be and I must confess that the ending didn’t come as a surprise to me. That said, I highly recommend it as a riveting read as the many characters are rounded and believable, it has an ingenious plot, the dialogue is relevant and sharp and the standard and quality of writing is compelling, all of which auger well for the author’s career in this difficult to master genre.
Reviewer: Serena Fairfax