Keep Your Friends Close

by Paula Daly
Grove Press, August 2014, $25

Think of Keep Your Friends Close as a domestic version of the classic film All About Eve, in which a young woman insinuates herself into a group of the unsuspecting to wreak havoc on their lives.

To outsiders, Natasha “Natty” and Sean Wainwright have a rock-solid marriage, two bright children, and a thriving hotel in England’s Lake District. Although they married young and dropped out of college because of Natty’s first pregnancy, the couple has persevered. But pull back the curtain, and cracks emerge. Natty’s controlling, prickly personality sometimes makes Sean feel inadequate; but her approach also is why they have a successful business, and why Sean can afford luxurious cars.

Natty is looking forward to a visit from Eve Dalladay, her best friend from college. Eve is a sought-after therapist who, after a speaking tour in Scotland, will visit the Wainwrights’ hotel before heading back to America where she lives with her husband. But Eve’s visit has barely begun when Natty gets the call that her 14-year-old, Felicity, has fallen ill during a school outing in France. Natty makes the trip to be with her daughter, happy that Eve can at least stay a few days to help Sean and their other daughter, 16-year-old Alice.

But ten days later, when Natty and Felicity return, the household has undergone a drastic change. Sean and Eve are in love and Eve is now living at the hotel. Natty is determined to reclaim her family, but may be up against more than a mere home wrecker. Eve has manufactured her past, and on further investigation, Natty learns that Eve has a habit of seducing married men, siphoning off their money, and disappearing. And Eve is not above murder to get what she wants.

Paula Daly’s affinity for psychological intrigue shines in Keep Your Friends Close. Eve quickly emerges as an intriguing villain who is completely amoral. Her way of slithering into the Wainwright family, showing one side to Sean and Alice, and another aspect of her personality to Eve, elevates Keep Your Friends Close. While Sean seems to fall too easily for Eve, Daly illustrates how an unhappy person can be seduced through little gestures—an offer to pick up Chinese food, pouring a drink unasked, fetching a pillow. Daly also wisely keeps Natty’s sharp personality intact. While Natty’s situation of being the discarded wife makes her sympathetic, she remains controlling and tightly wound.

British author Daly has penned a superbly sinister plot full of believable twists. It will have readers wondering just how well they know their friends, and how secure their lives are.

Oline Cogdill
Teri Duerr
August 2014
Grove Press