Mystery of the Month – Best Friends Forever

There’s a quote that says: “You don’t need a certain number of friends. All you need is a number of friends you can be certain of.” Alice and Kat are best friends, certain they can trust each other with absolutely anything. So why are there two police officers at Alice’s front door, asking her about the death of Kat’s husband, Howard?

Alice Campbell meets Kat Howard at the airport on a flight home to South Florida, where they bond over martinis and soon become firm friends. They’re an unlikely pair – Alice is an unassuming mother of two, writing a series of puzzle books for children, while art gallery owner Kat is a wealthy heiress with money to burn, used to getting what she wants.

Alice’s husband, Todd, becomes concerned about Kat’s influence over Alice and their marriage suffers a further blow when Todd loses his job. When Alice worries how she will pay overdue student fees, Kat is quick to write Alice a cheque for an enormous sum of money. This rouses the suspicion of the police investigating Howard’s death. Everyone thought Howard fell from the balcony of his two-story mansion in a drunken stupor but now a witness has come forward saying someone pushed Howard. There are lots of people with a motive to murder Howard – he was a disagreeable alcoholic who Kat insists was having an affair and who could also be violent.

The novel is narrated unreliably by Alice who jumps back and forward in time – between when she met Kat three years earlier and key moments in their friendship, to the present day investigation into Howard’s murder. Suspicions are raised when Alice begins to realise Kat hasn’t been honest about her relationship with Howard, her past friendships or her extracurricular activities. There’s a noticeable gap in the narrative – the events immediately leading up to Howard’s murder are missing – instead jumping to a few days later when Kat has inexplicably stopped responding to Alice’s calls and messages and Alice is questioned by the police.

Best Friends Forever has a cast of untrustworthy characters. Even Alice is hiding something from the reader – at face value she appears to be an ordinary woman who loves her family, but we know she is dishonest from the first few pages when she admits to hoping she is convincing when she speaks to the police. Kat’s motives are also unclear – she’s a deeply unhappy woman trying to conceal her true state of mind with alcohol and affairs with younger men, but we are uncertain how far she is willing to go to change her situation. These two women are intelligent, intriguing and crafty and their relationship makes for compelling reading, particularly the mystery as to how their incredibly close bond suddenly turns into a situation where Alice fears for her life.

No word is wasted and the book is heavy on dialogue, making it a quick and easy read – exactly what you want when you’re keen to find out what happens. Fans of B.A. Paris and Ruth Ware will enjoy this fast-paced thriller as the secrets both women have been keeping are finally unravelled in the last few pages. Margot Hunt cleverly drops hints, giving the reader all the information required to figure out what’s really going on, and just like the logic puzzles Alice enjoys, the reader will be weighing up evidence and trying to draw a plausible conclusion. Who is a knave and who, if anyone, will be the knight?

Margot Hunt is the pseudonym for American author Whitney Gaskell, a former lawyer who has previously written eight romantic and funny novels with female protagonists. This is her first psychological thriller, and her first novel under this name.

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt is published by Harlequin Books in Australia.

Standout Simile

It was also how she’d justify cutting me out of her life, like a surgeon slicing out a tumour.

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