Do Me a Favor

By K.L. Romo

Have you ever felt so indebted to someone that you’re compelled to return the favor? What if the favor makes no sense or is dangerous?

This is the premise in Nicci French’s newest thriller, THE FAVOR.

Jude has always been successful. She was an amazing student, a golden child. At least, that’s what everyone believed. Everyone but her.

Back in high school, Jude was madly in love with bad boy Liam Birch. They couldn’t have been any more different, but she supposed that’s what drove her to him. The magical summer before college was all-consuming, until a car accident ended their last night of drunken revelry. The police arrested Liam for driving under the influence. He didn’t think he’d be going to prison, but their courtship came to an abrasive halt.

Liam refused to see Jude, saying his life was “complicated.” She would soon leave for college in Bristol. After seeing Liam with another girl, she knew her time with him had ended.

Now a medical doctor specializing in geriatrics, Jude can’t believe it when Liam waits for her outside of the hospital late one Friday afternoon. She hasn’t seen him in 11 years, but he’s piqued her interest. Even though she was supposed to meet her fiancé, Nat, for breakfast, she readily accepts Liam’s invitation to get coffee. The thrill of seeing him again is irresistible.

Sean French and Nicci Gerrard
Photo Credit: Johnny Ring

After talking about the past, Liam explains why he’s tracked her down after all these years. He wants her to do him a favor. It’s a cryptic request, at best, but Jude can’t refuse the boy she used to love. He asks her to take his wallet and cell phone, drive to a cottage almost three hours away, then pick him up late Saturday night at a nearby train station. He will fill her in on the favor when he gets there.

Jude agrees to do what Liam asks, even though she doesn’t understand any of it. But one thing she’s sure of is that she must do it. When she lies to her fiancé, Nat, the fabrication rolls off her tongue. One lie leads to another until the police show up to question her. That’s when her problems really begin.

Nicci French is the pseudonym for co-authors Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. Here, the authors chat with The Big Thrill about their inspiration for the novel and the psychology surrounding guilt and repayment.

What prompted the idea for the plot in THE FAVOR?

We’d talked about it for years. What if someone had done a big favor for you—a big, important one—and they later came to you asking for a favor in return? Would you have to do it, whatever it was? We knew we were going to explore this one day; we just needed the right story. Then we came up with the story of Jude, a woman with everything: She’s a doctor, she’s about to be married. But there’s something in her past that won’t let go of her.

French and Gerrard on the short of the Mediterranean on the Greek island of Hydra

How is guilt a driving force in the actions people take, and what led you to explore this psychological incentive?

Doesn’t everyone feel guilty about events in their past—relationships that went wrong, people we hurt or failed to help? What’s fascinating to us is that the attempt to deal with that guilt, to make good of those wrongs, can have its own dangers. The expression “let sleeping dogs lie” exists for a reason! A constant obsession of ours is the power that the past has over us. We feel it in our lives, and we explore it in our books.

French and Gerrard enjoy a rare snowy day on Hampstead Heath in north London.

What is it about a person’s “first love” that is forever embedded in their heart?

There is something so powerful in the idea of “first love,” the love that Juliet experiences in Romeo and Juliet. Of course, it’s completely understandable. It’s one of the key moments of change from being a child to an adult; it involves so many powerful, uncontrollable emotions. But people also look at it through rose-tinted spectacles. First love can be beautiful and innocent. It can also be chaotic and embarrassing, even exploitative and dangerous. One of the big questions for Jude in this book, and also for the reader, is: What was this first love really like?

How can one innocent, but reckless, decision change a person’s life forever?

All of us, all the time, are just one decision away from blowing up our lives. Intervening in a fight, looking down at your phone while driving, falling in love with the wrong person. Life is so fragile, and it’s those fragile moments that fascinate us.

Is there a message you’d like readers to take away from the story?

There are various messages you might take away from this book. Perhaps we should all accept that there are things in our past that we can’t make right, and we must learn to live with that. More immediately, if someone asks you to do a favor, make sure you know what it is and make sure it’s legal!

The authors on a summer evening in Sweden, where they have a house (French is half-Swedish)

Can you give readers a hint about your next novel?

We’ve been working on a story about a woman who goes missing, and what that does to those left behind. It starts 30 years ago and ends in the present day.

K. L. Romo
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