My Perfect Friend - Sarah Clarke
Published by HQ Stories, Wednesday 23rd November 2022
I devoured My Perfect Friend in a single day - and I know all reviewers say that, but I really, really did.
Sarah Clarke has written a powerful psychological thriller whose main cast keep you constantly guessing.
The blurb describes how Beth has the perfect life. She has a beautiful home, gorgeous husband and two very cute little girls. But the perfect life comes under threat when one evening, she discovers a homeless man who has died of an overdose at the end of their upmarket street.
Hailed as a hero for not turning the other cheek, Beth comes to the attention of both Kat and Mark.
Kat is a friend from her troubled past, who parted with Beth on troubled terms. Mark is a close friend of the man Beth found, and convinced it was Beth's fault he overdosed, begins a campaign of intimidation.
It's clear both Kat and Mark pose a threat to the fragile world Beth has built...
I found the opening of My Perfect Friend really refreshing. It was such a different hook than I'm used to - the apparently blameless death of a homeless man and the discovery of his body. It both evoked sympathy and discomfort, but also subverted the trope of starting with a gruesome murder*.
Clarke's style is naturally easy to read. I quickly got used to the changing POV characters, with the main cast quickly established and cemented in my memory. Several interesting threads were established early-on, and I think it was this that kept me reading. Every character had secrets and I was teased through the first third of the novel, constantly on the cusp of discovering some new piece of the puzzle.
(I should say I still love an opening with a gruesome murder).
Quite a character
I can't say much without dropping huge spoilers - but I would say there was one character twist mid-way through the novel that made me gasp and slap my hand to my forehead. I like to think I'm quite savvy at seeing these things coming, but Clarke handled it masterfully.
I found myself warming to the characters I had initially distrusted and disliked. Kat is especially well-written and became my favourite.
At times I would find myself frustrated that I was taken out of the POV character whose story I was following to witness something else - but only because I was keen to get to the bottom of what was going on, and if anything it made me read faster.
I would also say this an excellent novel for anyone who is a fan of dogs. Plenty of doggo descriptions to keep you going!
I read the ending of My Perfect Friend very early in the morning, straining to stay awake - so I did re-read it for the writing of this review!
I didn't see the ending coming until it was basically upon me - and I refuse to say any more than that.
I'd love to buy Sarah Clarke a glass of wine and go through exactly how this book was constructed. It's so clever and it unfolds so naturally - it's one of those thrillers that reads like it must have been a dream to write (although I'm sure it wasn't).
With the themes and POV characters, it did put me in mind of Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins - I think fans of that novel will love this one.
Would be a great Audible listen but I think on this occasion I'd recommend the paperback. You need the satisfaction of flipping through those pages at great speed!
I was given a free advanced-reader copy of this book, in exchange for a review.