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Are You A Good Enough Friend To Hide a Dead Body?

Are You A Good Enough Friend To Hide a Dead Body?

Some time back, I saw a meme on social media about being a “good-enough” friend to help someone hide a dead body. It got me thinking: who would I help? My oldest childhood friends sprung to mind. If they killed someone and couldn’t—who knows why?—call the cops, there’d have to be a valid reason.

What though? My answers to that spun into a novel about old friends, twisted secrets, and loyalty stretched to its limits.

Authors write books about questions that intrigue us. How far would I go for my best friends? What’s inspired this fierce loyalty? How are we shaped by our oldest friendships?

My early childhood was nomadic—a dozen schools before junior high. My dad was a gold exploration geologist and we often lived in wild places, with no other kids for hundreds of miles. When we moved to Victoria BC—on Canada’s gorgeous Vancouver Island—my folks promised we’d stay put until I finished high school. Once I made friends, I stuck to them like glitter glue. Approaching four decades on and living continents apart, if my childhood besties called in hysterics in the night, I’d hop on a plane, no questions asked. I’d also stop at Walmart to buy shovels.

As Marlene Dietrich famously said: “It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”

I don’t think I’m alone in my deep loyalty for my oldest friends. We share a special—almost sibling-like bond—with friends made when we’re young. They’re our generation. Those early experiences shape us.

In my novel, the two best friends have grown up to lead very different lives. Jo’s a struggling single mom, while Dana is fabulously wealthy. When Dana’s rich and domineering husband winds up murdered, Jo helps her dispose of his body. I wanted to test their relationship in every way possible. Would their childhood ties hold or would the stress of a coverup—plus their socioeconomic disparity—drive a corpse-sized wedge between them? To explain their grown-up relationship, I throw in scenes from their teenage past. I’ve long been fascinated by teen girl power dynamics and teen girl aggression, both overt and not.

In 1997, in my seemingly idyllic hometown, a 14-year-old girl named Reena Virk was attacked by seven girls and one boy, all aged 16 or less. They burned her with a cigarette, punched and kicked her repeatedly, and dragged her unconscious body into a waterway, where she drowned. The media and public exploded with moral panic over teen girl violence. The boy, 16, and one of the girls, aged 15, were tried as adults and found guilty of second-degree murder. The boy, who showed remorse, got out of jail in 2010, while the allegedly unrepentant girl has been on day parole since 2017. The other six girls were convicted of assault in youth court, with punishments ranging from 60-day conditional sentences to one year of incarceration.

Reena Virk’s parents channeled their unimaginable grief into a program to educate local kids about bullying and violence. In a final bitter twist of fate, Reena’s mom choked to death in a local café 21 years after her daughter’s murder.

While I’d already moved overseas when this horrific crime happened, it made me think—a lot. I went to a public high school in a “good”—ie middle class—Victoria neighborhood, not that far from where Reena was murdered. The only physical fights I witnessed in my teens were between girls. At one grad-class campout, a girl attacked a classmate and broke her arm and ribs. This drunken brawl, reportedly over a boy they both liked, could easily have turned deadly. In contrast, I never saw any boys so much as argue. Was this undercurrent of female rage unique to my town and era? Given that Reena was twelve years my junior, it seemed the trend kept going.

I wasn’t the only kid in my year intrigued by female friendships and their dark side. My high school bestie—to whom I dedicated A Friend Indeed, grew up to be a prominent sociologist who specializes in teen girl relationships and bullying. Obviously, we’re using very different tools to explore girls’ and women’s realities. But we’re asking similar questions about female relationships, anger, social pressures, and power.

While A Friend Indeed is adult Suspense—and contemporary, Jo and Dana’s choices, behaviors, and relationship stem from their teenage past. I hope you’ll join them as they try to outpace their dubious choices.

Most of all, I  hope you have friends for whom you’d go far indeed—and vice versa.

And yes, don’t worry: my husband and those of my oldest BFFs remain alive and well.