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Sunday 5 September 2021

‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ by Emily Freud

 Published by Quercus,
22 July 2021.
ISBN: 978-1-52940-753-2 (PB)

At first glance, Kate Sullivan is a poster girl for Alcoholics Anonymous: an object lesson in how giving up the booze and getting your life together can pay big dividends. She’s planning her wedding to Mr Perfect, enjoys her teaching job, has the future all mapped out... until she encounters an old friend and the secrets in her past threaten to come crashing into the present.

Back in the old days Kate and Becky were inseparable. They worked together, partied hard, and Becky was the one who poured Kate into a cab at the end of a heavy night, and helped her pick up the pieces when ‘Never again!’ kicked in the following day. Until the night Becky walked out and disappeared from Kate’s life without no word of explanation. Kate’s memory of that night is a blank; she has no idea what she did, how she hurt Becky, what unforgivable sin she might have committed. Now Becky is back, and Kate decides it’s time to find out the truth – but Becky has changed, and she isn’t making it easy.

This accomplished debut is not so much a crime novel (though a pretty heinous crime has taken place) as an exploration of the damage addiction can inflict, not only on the addict but also on the people who get involved, willingly or not. Emily Freud has clearly done her homework; Kate’s struggle to get clean and stay sober is absorbing in a horrified kind of way, and her battle with temptation made me desperate to shout, ‘Don’t do it! You’ll regret it, big time!’ But it’s not just a tale with a moral; it’s a rattling good story as well, well-paced and intricately plotted, with plenty of tension and an almighty twist near the end. 

There’s a varied and sharply drawn cast of characters too; as well as the leading players Kate, Becky and Kate’s fiancé Ben, I especially enjoyed Ronda, Kate’s dad’s colourful girlfriend, and Lily, the wayward but talented GCSE student in whom Kate sees so much of herself.

There are questions almost until the final page. Will Kate resist temptation and stay on the wagon? How reliable is her memory of the past? And right at the centre of the mystery, what really happened on that fateful night six years ago, and how will it affect Kate’s apparently perfect future? No spoilers: you’ll have to read it to find out.

Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Emily Freud has spent her career working in television production and development. Credits include Emmy and BAFTA award winning television series including Educating Yorkshire and First Dates. Her debut novel My Best Friend’s Secret was published in July in 2021. Emily lives in North London, with her husband and two small children.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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