When 30-year-old TV producer Maggie Warren is involved in a traumatic coach crash, she has no idea that her nightmare is only just beginning. When she wakes up in hospital she can't remember why she and her boyfriend Alex split up, and the events of the summer previously that keep being held against her. As if that wasn't bad enough, someone seems to have it in for her and won't stop till she is dead. With no recollection of 'that' summer and the finger of suspicion pointing to everyone close by, who can Maggie trust, and who is a truly Bad Friend?
I started this book with great expectations, as the first couple of pages set the scene extremely well. It starts with a glimpse into the future and Maggie being pursued by person unknown, and then quickly goes back in time a few months to the fateful night on the coach. This was brilliant way to hook me in and make sure I kept on reading, as immediately it's both thrilling and suspenseful.
Unfortunately, my joy only lasted a couple of chapters. As Maggie recovers from the accident and returns to work, we are introduced to her TV land lifestyle and colleagues. Now, I have no personal experience of people who work in TV, but I am sure not all of them are like the clichés found here. From the mega bitch, chat show diva, Renee, the bullying slime ball Charlie and sulky, son of someone important (I didn't care who) work experience boy, Joe. I was bored and unimpressed by these two dimensional characters, who were all completely detestable, darling!
Maggie herself was grating on my nerves here, with her neurotic whining and moaning, especially about her job. The boyfriend who she wakes up to find is no longer her boyfriend, is an alcoholic bully and I couldn't understand her pining for him. Maggie is also a little too fond of champagne and claret and I felt like screaming 'Put down the bottle and get a backbone for god sake!' Infact the only interesting character was Faye, fellow crash survivor who now seems to be infatuated by Maggie.
I was on the verge of just giving up altogether on this book, but due to sheer laziness to get out of bed and choose something else, I carried on. It turns out, I'm glad I did as the story really began to intensify and gather a quick pace.
The story is written in such a way that everyone becomes a suspect, and I loved this. I really didn't have a clue who was actually terrorizing Maggie, or indeed if most of it was in her own mind. Each time I'd decided who it was, something would be revealed about another character and I'd change my mind.
Not only was I intrigued by who was stalking Maggie and why, but the mystery of what had happened in the summer and saw Maggie alone on a coach at night in the first place, was dangled like a tantalizing secret throughout. One thing I was a little unsure about was that Maggie remembered what had happened early on in the book, but it's not shared with the reader until almost the end. I can't decide if I liked this, as the book is told in the first person by Maggie, it felt something was being kept away from me. I've read quite a few books featuring amnesia recently, and I think I prefer memories being revealed as they are remembered, in flashbacks. I think this would have made me connect with Maggie far more, rather than leaving me feeling left out. When I read a book written in the first person, you expect to feel as if you inside this persons mind, and I didn't feel that with Bad Friends. It did however keep me intrigued.
What I did like about this book was the growth of Maggie, from someone I really disliked to someone I could feel empathy for. There are a couple of little sub plots about Maggie's childhood and family which were touching and nicely written. I went from thinking she was a shallow, self-absorbed and completely uninterested in her, to really thinking she had had a rough ride and rooting for her.
Bad Friends is a pretty easy read. At just under 400 pages, for the most part it's fast paced and intriguing and a good page-turner. However, that few chapters in the beginning nearly stopped me from reading the book at all, and pulls down my overall opinion of the book. The beginning promised so much, and the ending really did deliver, with plenty of suspense and guesswork along the way. If your looking for something that doesn't require much effort with a psychological twist, I'd say give it a go. I'm glad I kept on reading and ended up really enjoying the final half of the book, which I thought, was excellent. I just wish I'd been able to relate to Maggie sooner and then this would have been a definite 4 star read.
Bad Friends by Claire Seeber
Published by Avon 2008
TV Producer Maggie Warren survived a bad road accident, and upon her recovery, her life is about to get decidedly scary.
Maggie agrees to go on the very chat show she used to produce after being blackmailed by her boss Charlie, where she comes into contact with Fay, a fellow survivor who becomes increasingly infatuated with Maggie. Between her boss' blackmail, her broken relationship with the love of her life Alex and the clingy (and creepy Fay) Maggie has enough on her plate to try and keep her secrets buried before they ruin her. To make matters worse, someone is trying to push her over the edge; her flat is ransacked, she is being followed and is being sent abusive text messages.
Who is out to get her?
I recently read a review on this book which said it was an amazing suspense story and so I was intrigued to see if it lived up to it's claim. To put it simply - it didn't. Ok you can stop reading, end of review.
Ha only joking! There are several reasons why this fell very short of my hopes for an absorbing thrill-fest, although undoubtedly, it wasn't appalling and it was an ok read. Firstly, I felt the characters were absolutely appalling. Due to the nature of the story, I understand that most characters have to appear in some way sinister or unlike able, as most of the people that Claire comes into contact with are supposed to be "suspects" of the crimes that are being committed against her. However, I felt that this was really contrived. Not only were these unlike able characteristics forced, the relationships between the main character Maggie and the others also seemed fake.
In fact, Maggie doesn't appear to have any real friends; even her best friend leaves for Australia! This makes it really difficult to build up any sense of "whodunit" and therefore suspense during the book. In this way, the author succeeded in making me think that all the characters in Maggie's life might be responsible, but this didn't at all make their involvement plausible or in fact nail biting at all.
As I have already mentioned, most of the characters didn't have likeable characteristics and overall I didn't think they were well developed throughout the book either. Aside from Maggie, (who is quite frustrating to begin with, which I will get on to!) There is Fay, a fellow crash survivor who has a creepy stalker-infatuation on Maggie, Alex, Maggie's ex-boyfriend, Charlie, Maggie's boss who is blackmailing her and Seb, Maggie's new love interest.
Firstly, Fay. From reading the back cover blurb and from the front cover depicting a broken framed photo of two women, it is easy to assume that the content of this book will more closely involve the relationship of Fay and Maggie. In fact, Fay is barely in the book at all for most of it, occasionally popping up in strange places to freak Maggie out. We never get a sense of who Fay is, she is always a bit of a mystery which would be successful if she wasn't so non-threatening for most of the book! Although she was annoying, it was hard to take her character seriously, and I felt that the author could have done so much more to draw more out of Fay.
The same could be said for Alex who could also have been someone with a bit more substance. He also crops up now and again, and due to Maggie's very vague recollections of how they broke up before the crash, I only got glimpses into Alex's character. Once again, it was a half hearted attempt to make Alex interesting (alcoholism, millionaire father) but it just didn't go far enough to make me drawn to him.
As for Charlie and Seb, they were both slightly more interesting than the others and for different reasons. I felt that Charlie was truly vile as Maggie's boss and so the gut reaction I had from him was a success - although having worked in the TV industry, I recognised the type of character immediately and felt that the author got his sliminess spot on in most ways. Seb was a more interesting character, presented to the reader as a "good" character; good looking, considerate and charming which will obviously make most crime/thriller readers question his credibility.
Then we come to the main character Maggie. This story is told from Maggie's point of view, and for most of it she is vague on details which can be pretty frustrating. The main thing that kept me hooked for most of the story was the fact that Maggie seemed to have such dark and murky secrets in her past. Why is Charlie blackmailing her? Why did Alex and Maggie break up? What happened in the summer to make everyone question Maggie's character? These questions I was desperate to know the answers to...
...but it turned out that these secrets weren't really worth waiting for. I was so utterly disappointed by all of Maggie's secret past that I felt like immediately putting the book down. I didn't quite understand all the hype surrounding these plot lines - they were made to sound so much bigger than they were! Throughout the first half of the book, characters mentioned the terrible things that happened in the summer, how she would have been sacked if her boss had found out, how she wasn't arrested in the end...the answer was so silly and so basic I felt hugely let down.
Not only this, once Maggie's stalker had revealed themselves, I knew immediately why this person had done it and again I felt cheated out of a decent story.
This reads quite well, It passed the time, it wasn't difficult and it was fairly pleasant reading. However, as you can see, the negative list far outweighs that of any positive! A thoroughly disappointing story in all, so much potential but was too vague followed by unbelievable dissatisfaction with the whole story - not good!
As the title of this absorbing suspense novel suggests, Maggie Warren's friends are not as good as they should be. It seems that at least one friend has a grudge to bear but the problem is that Maggie has no idea who she might have upset and for what reason. If she does not find out who's after her though she knows that she will be in great danger.
Things started to go wrong for Maggie when she was involved in a fatal coach accident. Many people died but Maggie was one of the lucky ones. However, the crash affected her memory meaning she only has flimsy recollections of what happened before the accident. This means that when a young woman called Fay turns up claiming that Maggie saved her life, she does not recognise her at all. She also cannot recall why she split up with the love of her life, Alex, nor the reason why her boss is blackmailing her.
Maggie realises that she really is in trouble when she starts getting anonymous phone calls and texts, her personal things go missing, grafitti is sprayed all over her flat and she keep receiving bouquets of lilies - with messages of condolences even though no one has died. All of these events are unnerving to say the least and help to contribute to the pace and tension of the novel.
Although I found the story a little slow in getting going, it is well crafted as the author slowly reveals snippets of information in order to draw in the reader. She does this in a way that makes you want to read on, particularly as the story moves towards its dramatic climax. When I started reading this book, the plot felt a little too busy and complex, but on reflection, all of the strands were necessary in order to build the tension. The pace and suspense build well so that by the end you are well and truly hooked.
The story is written in the first person and told through Maggie. At first I felt she was a little cold and distant and she did not gain my sympathy immediately. I did warm towards her as the story moved on though, and her sense of detachment actually makes her appear more isolated and vulnerable, not knowing who out of her friends she can trust. She is surrounded by a number of truly unlikeable characters and it would be very easy to believe that any of them could be Maggie's stalker.
Bad Friends is an absorbing suspense novel that will keep you wondering what might happen up until the very last few pages. Although I wasn't quite on the edge of my seat as I was reading it, I did feel compelled to read the final hundred pages in one go and I realised that there were times when I was literally holding my breath as I was reading! If you enjoy suspense novels, this book definitely won't disappoint.
The paperback version is available on Amazon for the price of £5.49.
This review has previously been published on www.thebookbag.co.uk under my name.