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Wednesday 24 January 2018

‘Friend Request’ by Laura Marshall

Published by Sphere,
11 January 2018.
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 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

Laura Marshall grew up in Wiltshire and studied English at the University of Sussex. After almost twenty years working in conference production, in 2015 Laura decided it was time to fulfil a lifetime's ambition to write a novel, and enrolled on the Curtis Brown Creative three-month novel writing course. Her first novel, Friend Request was shortlisted for both the Bath Novel Award 2016 and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2016 and was published by Little, Brown in the UK in July 2017, selling over 100,000 copies to date and becoming a kindle number one bestseller. Friend Request has sold in a further seven territories around the world including the USA, Germany, France, Poland and the Netherlands. Laura is working on her second novel, which is expected to be released later in 2018. Laura lives in Kent with her husband and two children.

Serena Fairfax spent her childhood in India, qualified as a lawyer in England and practised in London for many years. She began writing by contributing feature articles to legal periodicals   then turned her hand to fiction. Having published nine novels all, bar one, hardwired with a romantic theme, she has also written short stories and accounts of her explorations off the beaten track that feature on her blog. A tenth, distinctly unromantic, novel is a work in progress. Thrillers, crime and mystery narratives, collecting old masks and singing are a few of her favourite things.

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