Complex Women in a Rather Generic, but Stylish, Thriller (Review: A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell)

8:30 AM

One of those rare instances where I found out a film was based on a book I'd never heard of. Also, Blake Lively.


She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favour by Darcey Bell
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ (2.5)

A Simple Favour was a rare read for me. Not because of its content, but because I didn't know it existed until after I watched the film which it is based upon. Admittedly, I only watched it for three reasons. (1) I love thrillers. (2) Blake Lively. (3) Anna Kendrick. BOOM. They are good reasons. For me.

Because they are novels turned into films that have a lot of complex women, unreliable characters with mysterious disappearances attached to them, A Simple Favour was instantly compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I mean, of course it was. While they share similar qualities to one another, they are each *pretends to be shocked* different.

So, here's what I'm going to say about A Simple Favour: I think I might have liked the novel more if I had read it first instead of seeing the film. Once you see Blake Lively call someone a, and I quote, "f*cking yeast infection" on screen, it's hard to really beat that experience. I think there's a pretty good chance that I'll revisit the book in the future, once the film is less present in my mind, so it is likely my rating will change.

Darcey Bell has a really keen eye for mystery and unlikable characters. I think this needs to be praised and hasn't been--I felt a variety of things for Stephanie and Emily. Hatred. Shock. Attraction. Dismay. Disgust. Excitement. When I say that my emotions were spread across the board for these characters, I mean it. A Simple Favour is by no means a simple story and borders on trashy fun rather than thriller, but that was clearly Bell's intention.

I really liked the general premise of the novel, and found it to be perfect for fans of Sara Shepard rather than Gillian Flynn, which is probably why I enjoyed it a lot more on screen vs. on page. It has a stylish flare to it but sometimes it lacks on the in depth development. It had its moments, I'll give it that. But, for the most part, there was a lot of underwhelming feelings involved in it.

While I don't think A Simple Favour was inherently bad, it was a bit lackluster and felt like it was venturing into parody territory rather than mystery. I finished it, and felt moderately entertained, so my experience with the novel was neither good nor bad--it just was.

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