[Tamsin is trying to persuade her assistant Bea to go to a TV industry awards event, in pursuit of a devious plan]
[Bea said] ‘Please don’t ask me to do this.’
I felt bad for her, I truly did. I knew I had overstepped a line in boss/assistant protocol. But I also knew – if I’m being really honest – that she would struggle to say no to me.
‘You don’t have to. Of course you don’t. It’s just … I have no idea what else to do.’
Bea laughed a nervous laugh. It didn’t sound very convincing… ‘Why does it have to be me?’
That one was easy. ‘You’re the only person I can trust.’
Bea let out a dramatic sigh. ‘I’m not sure I can pull it off.’
I saw a chink in the armour. ‘Of course you can. Wear that red bodycon dress you’ve got.’
‘I haven’t got a ticket. It might be sold out.’
I couldn’t help but notice the tiny glimmer of hope in her voice.
commentary: I wanted to read more varied books this year, and went for this one: it was highly enjoyable, very clever and very funny – and had an unexpected resemblance to the genre books I often read.
It starts out in true chicklit style – Tamsin writes about her life in a confiding and convincing tone, and has obviously got herself into trouble with a complex situation involving her best friend, Michelle, and Michelle’s husband Patrick. We hear a lot about Tamsin’s job and officemates and the general life of a successful London woman in her 30s. I was narrowing my eyes at some of the things she said and did, but I needn’t have worried: Fallon was truly on the case.
Tamsin is worried that Patrick may be cheating on Michelle, so she decides to set a trap, asking her assistant Bea to see if she can seduce him, as above. And then things get really convoluted, and a most elaborate and hilarious series of events ensue. The whole book started to resemble a spy story, a Cold War thriller – the kind where you don’t know who knows what, and you’re not sure who to believe. (This Robert Litell book is the classic example of my usual reading with this kind of plot.)
Strictly Between Us was brilliantly plotted, and had me gasping at various points. There were secret phones, conversations that were meant to be overheard, people following each other, attempts to find out passwords. It’s a tightrope, because part of it is funny like a slapstick film, but the characters are real and capable of feeling pain and hurt – but Fallon I thought got the balance just right.
Her descriptions of life were great too. I liked the child-infested house:
Everywhere I go I step on something I shouldn’t – a plastic farmyard cow, a mess of loom bands, a sock. It’s like an assault course for the Borrowers.And it would take too long to explain why it is so hilarious when Patrick says ‘Can we at least lose Inspector F-ing Clouseau?’ but it had me rolling around. She does terrific dialogue.
All the characters are well-drawn and actually most of them are nice, which makes a pleasant change. Adam, the friendly non-romance man, was a particularly fine invention. (Though sometimes Fallon seemed on the point of forgetting exactly how Tamsin had met him.)
I don’t want to spoiler the plot, so can’t say too much, but it would make a fabulous upmarket romcom film, with some splendid setpieces.