The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Adult, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Adult Fiction, Suspense, Academic, Campus

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

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.

First Line:

Three girls dance in front of him.

One of them has set up an old stereo, and tinny music blares, blocking out the sound of the cicadas that sing relentlessly at this time in the evening.

The Things We Do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent

I was intrigued when I read The Things We Do to Our Friends blurb. It called to me with one sentence: “What is the cost of an extraordinary life if others have to pay?” So, I decided to accept the publisher’s invitation. I am glad that I did because this book was a good read. It was a little fever-dreamish in some spots and frantic in others, but a good read.

The Things We Do to Our Friends is a fast past, almost frantic book that takes place mainly in Edinburgh, Scotland. There are side trips to Hull, England, and a few areas in France (Limoges and Perigueux). Those side trips help give insight into Clare and Tabitha’s backstories.

The storyline for The Things We Do to Our Friends was exciting and terrifying at the same time. Clare is at the University of Edinburgh for reasons only explained later in the book. Something horrible happened in the past, and she is desperate to put it behind her and atone for it. Unable to make friends, Clare sets her sights on a group of rich kids in her art history class: Tiffany, Imogen, Samuel, and Ava. As she integrates herself with the group, Clare is thrilled that she is finally living the life she was meant to (but never forgetting what brought her to Scotland, to begin with). Things start to go sideways when Clare’s past is revealed, and Tiffany decides to capitalize on it. Then, she begins to realize what her friends are capable of doing. Will Clare be able to back out? Or will Tiffany’s plans push her over the edge?

What I liked the most about this book is that the author wrote the characters (all of them) not to be likable. I am not complaining; far from it. It was a refreshing take from the usual characters. Where one is morally grey/evil, the others are squeaky clean. In this book, they were all morally grey/evil, and there was not one character that I would even put into the squeaky-clean category.

  • Clare—The author did a great job of writing her. She caught my attention from the beginning of the book. While I guessed what happened (there is a prologue in France that explains), I didn’t understand her involvement until almost the book’s end. I think she wanted to change, but she got caught up with Tiffany and company, and they exploited her (well, at the beginning). I also believe she was a product of her environment, and I’ll leave it at that. What she went through with her parents sickened me, and explained so much.
  • Tiffany—Oh, Tiffany, where do I start with you? She was so damaged that it radiated off the pages. She, too, was a product of her environment; like Clare, it wasn’t in a good way. I also think she was mentally ill towards the end of the book. The author never confirmed it, but it was always in the back of my head while reading.

The Things We Do to Our Friends fits perfectly into the mystery/thriller/suspense genre. The mystery angle was well written, and I was surprised at what was revealed. The same for the thriller and suspense. I could not put this book down!

The plotline with Clare, her secret, and how her friends used it to force her to do what they wanted was well written. As I mentioned above, I guessed what happened because of the prologue. But what was revealed was a shock and the label Clare mentioned. Looking back, there were plenty of hints leading up to it. I thought it was sick and cruel that her friends decided to use Clare’s secret to strongarm her into helping them with their scheme. I also predicted what would happen when things started to go south. But in no way was I prepared for the twist. Again, it made sense once it happened, but it still took me by surprise. It also tied into the secondary storyline with Clare as an adult. Won’t say how but I will say that it made sense to me why adult Clare kept cutting in.

Several minor storylines are absorbed into the main one at several points during the book. They add extra depth to the main storyline mainly because they explain specific events, what led to them, and the consequences.

There are trigger warnings in The Things We Do to Our Friends. They would be mental illness and child abuse. There are more that I want to add, but I can’t because of spoilers. Talk about frustrating!!! If any of these triggers you, I strongly suggest not reading this book.

The end of The Things We Do to Our Friends was anticlimactic. The author was able to wrap everything up in a way that made sense but also frustrated me.

I recommend The Things We Do to Our Friends to anyone over 21. There is nongraphic sex, language, and violence.

I want to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, and Heather Darwent for allowing me to read and review this book. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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