Gwen Moffat lives in Cumbria. Her novels are set in remote communities ranging from the Hebrides to the American West. The crimes fit their environment, swelling that dreadful record of sin in the smiling countryside cited by Sherlock Holmes. The style echoes this: rustic charm masking horror.
Dr. Eve Dalladay is a questionable psychiatrist whose therapy culminates in raping her clients on the couch.
Although exposed as slut and fraud from the outset it’s promising plot-wise that her best friend, Natty Wainwright, should be a devoted wife and mother coping with an upmarket hotel, teenage daughters, a druggie dad and a husband who’s something of a drone. With such polarization it’s difficult to understand how Natty remained in ignorance of her friend’s nature since they met at university – but then she had nothing that Eve wanted. Now she has a prosperous business; that she also has a family is immaterial. Husbands can be means to ends and family is expendable. Eve muscles in.
As she takes over: seducing the husband, charming the girls, moving to occupy their home and manage the hotel, Natty is squeezed out, fighting but losing ground all the time. Allies rally: her father (on cannabis for his health), his trusty carer, a solid and deceptively impartial cop. And because this novel has the air of a traditional cosy and Natty is portrayed as the turning worm rather than a wimp who tolerates abuse, we know that she is going to come out on top. No whodunit then but how will she do it?
Eve and Natty are caricatures and the humour is gallows, the best joke saved until last with a clever resolution that borrows from today’s technology as neatly as the sexual romping is reminiscent of cheap pornographic novels of a century ago. As a feminine fantasy Keep Your Friends Close is satisfactory but it needs tidying up, not least the tautology. Research should have discovered that the stretch of water that is Windermere is not prefixed by “Lake”.