The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent #bookreview #psychologicalthriller #suspense

She’s an outsider desperate to belong, but the cost of entry might be her darkest secret in this intoxicating debut of literary suspense following a clique of dangerously ambitious students at the University of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh, Scotland: a moody city of labyrinthine alleyways, oppressive fog, and buried history; the ultimate destination for someone with something to hide. Perfect for Clare, then, who arrives utterly alone and yearning to reinvent herself. And what better place to conceal the dark secrets in her past than at the university in the heart of the fabled, cobblestoned Old Town?

When Clare meets Tabitha, a charismatic, beautiful, and intimidatingly rich girl from her art history class, she knows she’s destined to be friends with her and her exclusive circle: raffish Samuel; shrewd Ava; and pragmatic Imogen. Clare is immediately drawn into their libertine world of sophisticated dinner parties and summers in France. The new life she always envisioned for herself has seemingly begun.

And then Tabitha reveals a little project she’s been working on, one that she needs Clare’s help with. Even though it goes against everything Clare has tried to repent for. Even though their intimacy begins to darken into codependence. But as Clare starts to realize just what her friends are capable of, it’s already too late. Because they’ve taken the plunge. They’re so close to attaining the things they want. And there’s no going back.

What is the cost of an extraordinary life if others have to pay? Reimagining the classic themes of obsession and striving with an original and sinister edge, The Things We Do to Our Friends is a seductive thriller about the toxic battle between those who have, and those who covet–between the desire to truly belong, and the danger of being truly known.

Literary suspense/psychological thriller with an Edinburgh, Scotland setting and toxic relationships? I was immediately intrigued.

I don’t think I’ve come across so many unlikeable characters in one book before – and I read a lot. Clare is an outsider and is desperate to find a way into wealthy Tabitha’s exclusive circle of friends. Why? I have no earthly idea. Not even Tabitha’s friends seem to like her much. With the exception of Finn, the bar manager where Clare works, none of these characters has any redeeming qualities. Finn is the voice of reason and tries to steer her away from them, but Clare is still drawn to Tabitha’s circle. An invitation is extended, and she’s soon hanging with this crowd.

Clare’s past is something she desperately wants to keep hidden. She had severe anger management issues and was responsible for a death, but she now seems like a completely different person (there’s been no therapy and seemingly no remorse). She’s easily manipulated by Tabitha and is persuaded to join Tabitha’s bizarre project – which leads to heaps of problems for everyone.

This novel is described as literary suspense but, other than the setting, school doesn’t play into the plot. It’s very dark and atmospheric, something I really enjoy, and the short chapters make it easy to keep reading. But because of pacing and my inabililty to connect with the characters, the book didn’t work for me. Reviews are split on Goodreads, so if you’re a psychological thriller fan this novel may be your cup of tea.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

25 thoughts on “The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent #bookreview #psychologicalthriller #suspense

  1. This book has been getting a lot of press. Thanks for your mindful and forthright review, Teri. I admit that no matter the quality of the story or writing, I get frustrated and disinterested when a book has too many unlikeable characters. Even more so when that seems to apply to all of them. I hope your next read is more satisfying. Hugs (and purrs from Velma & Daphne!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. There was definitely no shortage of unlikeable characters, Teagan, lol. Although this one didn’t work for me, there are plenty of other readers who really enjoyed it. I’ll never get tired of hearing those names!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmm, books like this are really hard to review. I think you did an excellent job, Teri. I’ve read a few novels where none of the characters had any redeemable traits. A few I liked because the plot and pacing was spot on, but usually I end up disliking them. It does make me wonder about that project, though!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Characters (at least one that I can root for with all my heart) are important to me. It’s interesting that the author would create a story without a likable protagonist. Thanks for the honest review. One to pass on. My kindle is sighing with relief. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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