Lead Review

  • Book: How to Kill Your Best Friend
  • Location: South East Asia
  • Author: Lexie Elliott

Review Author: Tina Hartas

Location

Content

3.75*

Imagine a luxury hotel (specifically, the resort that supposedly topped the Condé Nast list of best small hotels worldwide), set on horseshoe bay at fictional Kanu Cove, a ‘remote’ island somewhere in South East Asia (except it’s not really that remote, it’s a two hour drive from the airport, where planes fly in direct from Frankfurt and London).

The book opens at a cracking pace as Georgie descends on the hotel like a whirling dervish, late, there to attend the memorial for her great friend Lissa, who went swimming locally one evening and never returned. This is surprising given that the friendship between the three women featured in the novel – to wit, Lissa, Bronwyn and Georgie – was in part based on their love of swimming and each is/was deemed to be a strong swimmer. What happened? There are rumours of a ‘thing’ lurking under water, Lissa was not considered one for taking her own life and therefore perhaps it was a very unfortunate accident. Or was it?

The weather turns ominous and thus the friends of old are stuck on the island together, examining each other, pondering secrets and letting imaginations run riot. Lissa’s husband Jem runs the resort and the group is getting increasingly uneasy. Then, unsettling messages (for example, a message scrawled in lipstick on the mirror – that 🙄 hackneyed trope) are fed through to Bronwyn and Georgie, who head alternate chapters. Then, disquieting e mails start to arrive….

This is very much a locked island mystery, with a well formulated plot at the heart. It didn’t particularly work for me and I think I have now worked out why. The characters are introduced in a hurry and therefore it’s quite hard to separate them out in the early stages and they are pretty much unlikeable and unrelatable once you do become familiar with each person. After the really competent opening the book gets into its rhythm and the narrative starts to make heavy weather of progression. The paragraphs are oftentimes long and dense, the characters pose themselves rhetorical questions which, after a while, feels a little tedious – much mental gyrating goes on within their heads, shared, of course with the reader. It just all felt too intense and somehow, for me, this style (good though the writing is) doesn’t seem to work well for the thriller genre. It somehow could do with being lighter on its feet.

Location feels tropical and hot and makes a good backdrop for the story; once things turn dark within the storyline, the backdrop transforms in tandem from a lush to an ominous locale.

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Enter the 2021TripFiction 'Sense of Place' Creative Writing Competition!

A story in which the location plays as important a role as the rest of your words.

2,500 word maximum, 750 word minimum

Judges include Victoria Hislop and Rosanna Ley

First Prize of £1,000 / US$1,350

Prizes total £1,750 / US$2,362 

Winning entry published on TripFiction site and publicised on Social Media

Entries close 6th November 2021