Source: Review copy
Publication: 12 January 2023 from Viking
My thanks to Viking Books for an advance copy for review
Clare arrives at the University of Edinburgh with a secret. This is her chance for a blank slate: to find the right people and reinvent herself.
And then she meets Tabitha.
Tabitha is charismatic, beautiful and intimidatingly wealthy. Soon Clare is sucked into her enigmatic circle of friends and their dizzying world of champagne on rooftops and summers in France.
Her new life has begun.
Then Tabitha reveals the little project they’re working on, a project they need Clare’s help with. It’s reckless, possibly perilous and might finally allow Clare to become who she was meant to be…
But how much is an extraordinary life worth if others have to pay?
It’s a delight to welcome a new author into the crime and thriller world and I have no doubt at all that Heather Darwent will have a sparkling writing career. The Things We Do to Our Friends is a delightfully dark story of dangerous and toxic friendships. Clare has not had an easy life and has come to study at Edinburgh University, putting her old life behind her. This is her opportunity to reinvent herself; to become the woman she wants to be.
She finds herself a job in a bar and even begins a tentative relationship. But in her art class she meets Tabitha. Tabitha, for reasons Clare cannot fathom, pays court to Clare, drawing her slowly and inexorably into her tight, glittering circle. Their hedonistic lifestyle is seductive, but more than that, Clare enjoys a strong feeling of belonging and being wanted as part of this exclusive clique.
Heather Darwent beautifully creates the dark and twisty atmosphere of Edinburgh’s Old Town and the contrast with the glittering Georgian apartment that is Tabitha’s New Town abode. Her Clare is quiet and in need of nurture, and Tabitha’s flattery is insidious and persistent.
The Things We Do to Our Friends is a study in understanding character and showing how easy it is to play on the need for acceptance and inclusion. It is full of calculated manipulation and a perverted view of feminism that feels exciting and just dangerous enough, but is full of danger and poor intent.
The dynamics of the relationships in Tabitha’s inner circle are venal and unpleasant and Darwent beautifully draws this out with skill and intrigue
Verdict: I thought this was cleverly written with good pace and excellent plotting, conveying a dangerous atmosphere that the reader is constantly aware of in the background. You know something is not right with this disturbing friendship and that the power dynamics are seriously skewed, but Clare becomes like a fly trapped in Tabitha’s web. Beautifully executed, this is a dark and intoxicating read that is bound to do very well.
Bookshop.org Waterstones Hive Stores
Heather Darwent is based just outside of Edinburgh. Originally from Yorkshire, she came to Scotland to study History of Art at the University of Edinburgh, like her character Clare, and ended up never quite leaving. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her reading chaotic non-fiction about Silicon Valley and swimming in the sea . . . or being unbearably boring in conversation about swimming in the sea. The Things We Do To Our Friends is her debut novel.