Natty and Sean Wainwright are happily married. Rock solid in fact. So when Natty's oldest friend, Eve Dalladay, appears - just as their daughter collapses on a school trip in France - Natty has no qualms about leaving Eve with Sean to help out at home.
Two weeks later and Natty finds Eve has slotted into family life too well. Natty's husband has fallen in love with Eve. He's sorry, he tells her, but their marriage is over.
With no option but to put a brave face on things for the sake of the children, Natty embarks on building a new life for herself.
And then she receives the note.
Eve has done this before, more than once, and with fatal consequences...
Published today (13 March 2014), by Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers), Keep Your Friends Close is Paula Daly's second novel.
I read a lot of books and I'm a quick reader. I read a lot of books that I really enjoy, but I am quite a disciplined reader - I stop when I have to go to sleep, I get up early for work.
It is extremely rare that I read late into the night, I'm not very nice when I'm tired, I like my sleep.
My copy of Keep Your Friends Close arrived yesterday, sent by Alison Barrow from the publisher Transworld. In the early hours of this morning I was still reading, utterly gripped and with those conflicting feelings that all bibliophiles will recognise; the desperate need to get to the end, so see what is going to happen, and that feeling of loss that once it's finished, it's finished.
I did haul myself off to bed and resumed reading this morning at 7.30am and didn't look up again for another two hours.
So what is is all about then? Natty and Sean are a happily married, successful couple. Together since their school days and with two pretty, bright teenage daughters - theirs is a marriage that the doubters said would fail. Natty and Sean were determined to prove everyone wrong and have worked extra hard to achieve what they have today; the fabulous boutique hotel in the Lakes, the sports cars, the wonderful house.
Natty is a control freak, she's one of those women who put the rest of us to shame. She wipes the lid of the wheelie bin, she works out a perfectly balanced diet for the whole family, her house is spotless, the business is flourishing. Maybe Natty is trying too hard though, having to prove herself worthy to her snobbish mother-in-law, pushing herself harder and harder so that nobody can say that Sean married beneath him, or that Natty ruined his life.
Sean loves Natty, but he's tired and he feels abandoned, as though he is way down on Natty's list of things to care about. When their youngest daughter, Felicity is taken ill whilst on a school trip in France, Natty rushes to her side, safe in the knowledge that her oldest and dearest friend Eve will look after the house, other daughter Alice ..... and Sean.
Dr Eve Dalladay; blonde, beautiful, successful psychologist. Eve and Natty have been friends for years, since their first days at university and Eve knows more about Natty than anyone else, they share their innermost secrets .... or do they? Whilst Natty is away, Eve puts her plan into action and Sean does not disappoint her. Within ten days they are in love and when Natty returns home she finds her whole world upside down.
Natty then has the biggest battle of her life to fight and it is clear that it is not going to be easy. Cool, calm, beautiful Eve has stolen her husband's heart, and is doing her best to steal everything else as well.
Some psychological thrillers are more about plot than character. Keep Your Friends Close is a perfectly balanced blend of compelling characters with a gripping story. Eve and Natty have been created with care and with realism. Natty is fraught and highly-strung, passionate and spontaneous whilst Eve is pure evil with a glint of psychopathic genius.
Paula Daly makes sure that the reader is well aware of what Eve is capable of, it is the rest of the characters who have to slowly unravel just what is happening, and just who Eve really is which adds to the suspense and the ever-present sense of foreboding and anticipation.
Each one of the lead characters are oh-so human, with flaws and faults just like the rest of us. Alongside Natty, Eve, Sean and the girls there is a supporting cast of characters including DC Joanne Aspinall, her aunt 'Mad Jackie' and Natty's father Ken. These three have their own view on what is happening, and add more depth to the story.
To go into more detail would spoil the plot for other readers, I've not given away anything here that is not contained in the blurb for the book, and I guess that I'm pretty clear about how much I enjoyed this complex, compelling and extremely well-written story.
I'm really excited to be taking part in the BLOG TOUR for Keep Your Friends Close. Author Paula Daly will be dropping by to answer some questions on Monday 24 March.