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Toxic female friendships: 5 books to haunt your evenings

27th March 2015

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Hot off the back of Gone Girl, the twisted anti-heroine genre is having a rather extended moment.

We can see why: with power, crime, danger, manipulation and often a strong dose of sex, the femme fatale is hardly a new literary trope.

It’s hard to remember a time in recent history that it’s taken over our bookshelves and Kindle stores quite so prominently, though.

Joining this toxic party is The Lie, a taught and threatening the-past-is-coming-back-to-haunt-you thriller about the dangers of female friendships – and what happens when they go very, very wrong.

Here, The Lie’s author Cally (CL) Taylor shares her top five books with dangerous female leads. From Single White Female to Black Narcissus, these are the women that put Amy Dunne to shame...

Single White Female – John Lutz

It’s the chilling novel that inspired the classic film about Allie Jones and her flatmate Hendra Carlson. At first Hendra seems perfectly nice – quiet and shy and the ideal person to share a flat with – but there’s more to her than meets the eye. She becomes envious of Allie’s looks and social life and begins to mimic her; wearing her clothes and even buying a wig that bears more than a passing resemblance to Allie’s hairstyle. But Hendra isn’t satisfied with just looking like Allie, and she won’t stop until she’s taken everything Allie holds dear. Gripping and terrifying, you’ll be holding your breath as Allie fights for her life, in more ways than one.

Her – Harriet Lane

A subtle and sinister psychological thriller. Emma is a struggling young mother. When a wealthy woman called Nina returns her purse to her after she drops it in the street the two become friends. The two have met before, a long time before, but Emma doesn’t know this. Nor does she realise that Nina will stop at nothing until she wreaks her revenge. The critics went wild for this book, and for good reason.

Notes on a Scandal – Zoe Heller

When Sheba Hart takes a job as a teacher at St George’s secondary school she’s grateful when Barbara Covett, an older, more experienced teacher takes her under her wing. Barbara too thinks she’s found a kindred spirit in Sheba and when the younger woman begins an affair with a pupil she becomes Sheba’s chief defender. But Barbara’s actions are not as innocuous as they appear, and she slowly begins to manipulate the younger woman until Sheba is entirely dependent on her. Creepy and compulsive, I couldn’t put this book down.

Keep Your Friends Close – Paula Daly

Paula’s follow up novel to her hugely successful debut ‘Just What Kind of Mother Are You?’ examines what happens when Natty’s old friend Eve infiltrates her life and tries to seduce her husband. Hotel owner Natty isn’t immediately the most sympathetic woman in the world. She’s controlling and uptight but you can’t help but root for her as cold, calculating psychologist Eve ruthless plots to destroy the family life that Natty cherishes.  Daly’s writing is as witty and insightful as it is suspenseful and gripping, and the twist at the end was so clever it made me laugh out loud in delight.

Black Narcissus – Rumer Godden

Set high in the Himalayas, an order of nun’s take over the General’s palace after it is bestowed to them by his son. They take it on with the best of intentions: they want to tame the wild garden and set up a school and dispensary for the local children, but the wild landscape and the isolated environment of the palace reveals weaknesses in the nun’s characters. Sister Honey’s care of the children switches from loving to possessive, Sister Clodagh becomes haunted by a past love affair and Sister Ruth develops a jealously so intense it boils over into a violent climax with tragic consequences. This creepy, claustrophobic and controversial novel was published in the 1940s and made into a feature film in 1947.

The Lie by CL Taylor is released on 23rd April 2015.

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