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The Crack Magazine

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Book of the Month: The Things We Do To Our Friends by Heather Darwent

“I felt we were better than the other students from the start, even before I knew how much Tabitha had planned for us.” That’s Clare, the protagonist of Heather Darwent’s debut novel, talking about The Shiver – a name she’s given to a particular clique of students, of which she’s become a part. (Tabitha is The Shiver’s Queen Bee. It’s probably also worth noting that “shiver” is the collective noun for a certain breed of fish. Sharks.) The Shiver study at Edinburgh University, but the novel spends little to no time relating their studies. Instead, we’re invited into a world where the wealthy and charismatic Tabitha leads the group in rooftop drinking sessions, casino visits, and summer idles in France. But while all of this is going on, we’re constantly aware of a background drumbeat rapping out the tattoo: Something Isn’t Quite Right Here. (This sense of unease is signalled from the off with a quite brilliant and rug-pulling prologue.) I’m sure many reviewers will find cause to mention Donna Tartt’s ‘The Secret History’ in relation to ‘The Things We Do To Our Friends’ – as it’s another novel dealing with nefarious goings-on in a higher education establishment – and those comparisons are not entirely wide of the mark, particularly in the opening chapters. As the novel unfurls, however, it turns into a different beast. Some may find the pacing a little off – the twists tend to be drip-fed – but I loved my time swimming with these sharks. RM