Darcey Bell

A Simple Favor

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A Simple Favor Summary

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Darcey Bell’s debut novel the thriller, A Simple Favor (2017), made headlines when the film rights were bought before the book had published. The film was released in 2018, starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.

The story begins with an entry from Stephanie’s mommy blog, begging her online community for help. Her best friend, Emily, has gone missing. Their children, Miles and Nick, are best friends. She met Emily through them, and they bonded over books and movies. Emily, who works in New York City, had asked Stephanie to pick up Nicky from school and take him to her house because she had to work late. Two days have passed and Stephanie hasn’t heard anything from Emily; she is very worried, though she specifically states she does not think Emily’s husband, Sean, would do anything to hurt Emily.

Stephanie was recently widowed when her husband and half-brother died in a car accident; their car lost control and went off a bridge. They were bringing home steaks for dinner, and ever since, Stephanie cannot eat meat. She runs her blog with an excess of honesty, revealing too much; now, she posts even more details in hope of expanding the exposure about Emily’s disappearance.

When Stephanie became close to Emily, she confessed to her that Miles is actually her half-brother’s child. Her husband and half-brother did not die in a tragic accident; it was a murder-suicide. Stephanie had been engaged in an incestuous sexual relationship with her half-brother for years, often noting their resemblance to their parents, and her husband couldn’t take it anymore and so killed himself and her brother.

The police initially assume Emily has simply decided to take a vacation from her own life, but Stephanie rejects this because Emily is too dedicated to her family. Suspicion falls on Sean when it is revealed that he holds a $2 million life insurance policy on Emily. Even Stephanie is convinced he must be involved in foul play—until a body discovered in a lake near her family’s cabin is identified as Emily, and her death is ruled a suicide.

Comforting each other for this sudden loss, Stephanie and Sean begin a romantic relationship. Stephanie and Miles move in with Sean and Nicky. Nicky doesn’t take this well; when Stephanie suddenly finds herself craving meat for the first time since her husband’s death, she makes meat for dinner and Nicky accuses her of killing his mother and cooking her for dinner. Then one evening, Emily calls.

The point-of-view shifts to Emily, who reveals her “suicide” was a plan she shared with Sean. She would fake her disappearance and death, he would collect the $2 million, and then, after a short “grieving” period, he would meet Emily in Europe to start a new life. Emily had explicitly told Nicky to ignore reports of her death. However, what Sean did not know is that Emily had a twin sister, Evelyn. Evelyn was a black sheep, a depressed drug addict; Emily didn’t tell Sean about her. The night before their plan was to kick off, Evelyn contacted Emily, threatening to kill herself. At first, Emily tried to talk her out of it, but deciding it would be useful to have a real body, she encouraged Evelyn to drink more. She gave Evelyn her unique ring and then let her kill herself. She is furious that Sean didn’t stick to the plan and that he began an affair with Stephanie.

Emily kills the insurance investigator looking into her “death,” and Stephanie helps her dispose of the body. She recruits Stephanie in a new plan to destroy Sean, whom Emily now claims was abusive to her, prompting her to make this deranged plan. Stephanie agrees to help by printing terrible things about Sean on her blog; Emily brings her accusations to the police. Sean, forced to flee the country because of the mounting scandal, returns to his home in England.

The body of the insurance investigator is found, however, and Emily’s unique ring is found on his body. Emily implicates Stephanie in the murders, revealing Stephanie’s dark secret in a secret recording she made when Stephanie confessed Miles’s paternity to her.

Emily reveals she had selected Stephanie because she seemed unintelligent and easily manipulated, evidenced by the way Stephanie changed aspects of her life to comply with Emily’s opinions and desires. She also intended Stephanie to be a temporary caretaker for her son while she was in hiding. Emily takes Nicky and flees with two fake passports, getting away scot-free as the police begin looking hard at Stephanie.