The Best Friend, by Shalini Boland

Louisa has put her son Joe into a new school. She writes a weekly column for a national newspaper in England and her husband Jared is creative director for an advertising company. They’re not poor but not nearly as well-off as the other mothers at Joe’s school. It’s a relief, then, when Darcy, one of the mothers, befriends her one day after school.

As the relationship develops, however, what were at first odd rude behaviors turn into deeper and more sadistic cruelty. The worse the behavior is the less Jarad is inclined to believe his wife. Meanwhile, Louisa is also being followed by a strange bearded man whenever she leaves the house.

This English thriller is an interesting portrait of a woman in the orbit of a sociopath, and things get really dangerous when, after Darcy and her husband separate, Louisa goes to the husband’s apartment to ask about Darcy.

The narrative of the book switches between Louisa’s perspective and a third-person narrator describing the life of a boy and his tough and cruel older sister.

It’s not always an easy book to read. Before the situation gets into thriller mode the reader has to squirm through what’s seemingly random bullying and gaslighting by Darcy for no apparent reason, and what seems like an unrelated second narrative is a little bizarre at first. As the reasons that Darcy has targeted Louisa are revealed both narratives become clear, but the book would have been as good with less distractions had the two stories meshed earlier.

The book has a pretty powerful climax when it becomes clear just how insane Darcy is and how much blood she’s willing to spill, and there’s an excellent finale with an epilogue that wraps things up perfectly.

At the time this is being written it’s listed as Amazon’s #1 book in British Contemporary Fiction, and if you’re patient with the start it does finish with fireworks.