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THE FAVOR by Nicci French: Book Review

A teenage romance that ended with a car crash has its reverberations more than a decade later in Nicci French’s The Favor

Jude’s nose was broken, the couple in the backseat was injured, but Jude’s boyfriend Liam was unhurt.  Liam wasn’t bothered when he was tested for his alcohol level and whisked away by the police, even lifting his hand to Jude in what looked like a gesture of farewell.  Aside from a glance, a glance that left her in tears when she noticed him a few days later with another girl, that was the last time Jude saw him for years.

Now Jude is a geriatrician at a London hospital, engaged to Nat, and busy planning their upcoming wedding.  She’s on her way to meet her fiancé for breakfast when a nurse tells her someone is waiting for her in the lobby, and when she reaches the reception desk she sees it’s Liam.

Jude and Liam catch up on each other’s lives, with Liam telling her that he’s doing alright, has a carpentry business, and is the father of a young son.  He already knows about Jude’s engagement through an old friend, he says, and he’s contacted her to ask a favor.

Liam wants to arrange a meeting with her for the following day.  His plan is then to bring her small bag of his clothing, for her to drive to a cottage several hours from London the day after they meet, pick him up at the area’s train station that evening, and stay with him at the place overnight, emphasizing that the cottage has two bedrooms.

When she asks him to explain he won’t, but he assures her there’s no one else he can ask and that it’s not illegal.  “I wouldn’t ask you to do anything wrong.  Though you mustn’t tell anyone….Nobody at all.”  Thus begins the story of a favor, which blends into a lie, and segues into a murder.

When Liam doesn’t turn up at the train station, Jude realizes she has no way to reach him–no phone number, no email address, and his cell phone is in the bag he’s given her.  She’s furious at herself for not finding out more information about him, about this favor, but she decides she’ll return to London the next day and wait for him to contact her.

Then, in the early hours of the next morning, Liam’s phone rings.  A woman’s introduces herself as Leila Fox, a London police detective, and she tells Jude to stay where she is, that the police will be arriving there shortly.  The local police arrive, followed by Detective Fox, and Jude is told that Liam was found stabbed to death the previous evening.

The police don’t suspect Jude of the murder, but she is still thrust into their investigation.  Their teenage romance was a semi-secret, so the only member of Liam’s family she ever met was his younger brother Dermot, and even that was a very brief chat at the door of the family’s home.

Now she’s meeting the people who have been part of his recent life–Danny, the mother of their son; Vin, Liam’s business partner; two other members of Liam’s commune-type household–Irina and Erika; and of course Liam’s grieving parents.  And they’re all strange, angry, secretive people, or some combination of the three.  Every time Jude attempts to leave them and the police investigation behind, something or someone pulls her back into it.

Written by the masterful husband and wife team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, The Favor continues the line of incredible thrillers they’ve written.  You can read more about Nicci French at various sites on the internet.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden OldiesPast Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.

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