Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Domestic #Thriller: A FRIEND INDEED by Elka Ray

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Domestic Thriller


Twisty and ingenious, A Friend Indeed is an engrossing psychological thriller perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Ruth Ware.

When single mom Jo Dykstra was at her lowest—jobless and penniless—her childhood friend Dana McFarlane helped her out big-time by securing her a teaching job and thus an opportunity for a new life in the affluent Pacific Northwest town of Glebes Bay. So, when Jo gets a frantic late-night call from Dana, sobbing and desperate for help, it feels like a chance to help her friend in return.

The last thing Jo expects to see when she arrives at Dana’s oceanfront mansion. Her friend’s handsome and wealthy husband, Stan, dead, sprawled face down on the floor. Dana admits to killing her husband following years of secret abuse and begs Jo not to call the police. For nearly two decades, Dana’s marriage and family had looked picture perfect. Who’d ever believe that pillar-of-the-community Stan was a monster? Determined to cover up her husband’s killing and shield her kids from scandal, Dana convinces Jo to help her dispose of the body.

But the cover-up starts to crumble when a blackmailer threatens to expose their crime. Hounded by gossipy neighbors, ill-fated lovers, and zealous cops, truth and lies are laid bare between Jo and Dana, putting their families in danger and threatening to shatter a thirty-year friendship. Shocking and fast-paced, A Friend Indeed is a riveting tale about the power of friendship and the deadly weight of lies.


“In her sensational new novel, A Friend Indeed, Elka Ray delivers a darkly atmospheric tale of lifelong friends—Dana and Jo—whose trust in each other gets tested when Dana’s husband turns up dead. A nifty nod to noir played out between two women, Ray keeps the writing acid-sharp. Dana and Jo may be grown-ups with children of their own, but their deceptions hearken back to those of the teenagers they once were. Ray—in a masterful tick, tick, tick like a metronome—exposes the secrets each woman keeps from the other. As the characters’ mutual suspicions ratchet up, they each begin to unravel. Or so it seems. A Friend Indeed—like its writer—is devilishly smart with twists that are more delicious to unwrap than a box of chocolates.”
—Deborah Goodrich Royce, nationally bestselling author of Reef Road


Domestic Thriller

Editorial Note: Edited for some language.


Chapter 1
Jo: That night

The phone’s buzz jolts me awake. I hesitate. Good news never comes in the dead of night.

Unless . . . I reach for it. For one stupid second, I’m convinced it’s my ex, Trevor.

“Hello?” It comes out a thick mumble.

“Jo? It’s me!” Not Trevor but Dana, my best and oldest friend. Her words are jerky. “Jo, I need your help! Can you come over?”

I find my glasses. The ’80s clock radio that came with my basement apartment blinks 12:09 a.m. “What? Now?” I say, incredulous. “But I have Ruby. And I have to teach in the morning. What’s happened?”

“I . . . Please!” says Dana. “I just . . .” She’s gulping too hard to get the words out.

I sit up. Holy shit. Something’s happened. The last time I heard Dana cry was well over a decade ago, when Owen started acting out as a toddler. I click the light on. “Dana? Are you okay?”

“Please, Jo.” A sob breaks free. “I really need you!”

I fight back a sigh and kick back the covers. Is saying no an option? She’s my best and oldest friend. She’s sobbing hysterically. Plus, I owe her.

And she needs me.

This last thought brings a tiny lift like I’ve been chosen first for softball. Pathetic, but there it is, even at my age. That’s a first in thirty years of friendship. Even as a young girl—no, especially as a young girl, Dana never needed me.

I stagger out of bed and head for the bathroom. “Okay,” I say. “I’ll be right over.”


At this time of night, the Oaks lies deserted. It’s the most exclusive part of town. Immense trees flank the road as if to keep me in line. High walls guard old mansions with spiky black rooftops.

It starts to drizzle. The ornate streetlamps are feeble. I fight back a yawn and click on my wipers. The left one’s wonky. It squeaks and smears the wetness. Yet one more thing that needs fixing.

I turn onto Elm and check my rearview: Ruby’s fast asleep in her booster seat. Poor kid, hauled out of bed past midnight. Tomorrow’s Monday. A school day. She’s in kindergarten. This had better not be some pointless drama.

I should have refused. But how could I? Dana sounded desperate. And she’s done so much for me, especially after Chicago. No, I won’t think of that. Of course Dana helped me.

That’s what friends do. We’re here for each other.

I slow at a stop sign. Now it’s my turn. She said she needed me. Might her twins be in trouble, or little Zoe, who’s the same age as Ruby?

I turn onto Beach Drive. By the water, the lots and mansions grow even bigger, the walls and gates more imposing. Those gates represent their owners’ egos. No one needs a gate as tall as a double-decker bus. No one needs a twelve-thousand-square-foot mansion.

A sigh escapes. What I need is sleep. And a new car, preferably one made this millennium. An ex who paid child support would be a bonus. F**king Trevor. How idiotic to think he’d actually call me.

I slow and turn into Dana’s driveway. The wrought-iron gates rise before me. In the back seat, Ruby mumbles in her sleep. I pull up and type in the security code. The gates slide open. Modern magic.

I hesitate. Need. What an odd thing to say. And Dana’s tone. She sounded almost . . .scared. She’s normally cool and collected.

Is she in danger? Am I putting Ruby at risk? This thought shrinks my chest. But no. Dana would have called the cops instead of me, which means it’s some domestic drama—maybe an argument with Stanley.

I was a bridesmaid at their wedding, going on two decades ago. Even so, I don’t really know him. By the time Stan moved here, I’d left town. We’ve barely spoken since I moved back two months ago.

What I do know is that I don’t trust him. He runs a hedge fund and is utterly convinced he deserves his good fortune. He’s too rich, with all the confidence that breeds. Men like Stan lack imagination.

Maybe Dana caught him cheating and that’s what prompted her hysterical call to me. Yes, Stan’s just the type to find someone younger and blonder.

I jolt forward, past the graceful hemlocks, our state tree. The gates glide shut behind me.

The driveway’s so long it’s got speed bumps. Oregon oaks, Douglas firs, and Pacific rhododendrons line the road, all native to the Pacific Northwest. The wiper’s squeak is increasingly shrill. I grit my teeth. It’s like nails on a blackboard.

Damn. I regret coming over. I shouldn’t have caved. I’m due in early tomorrow for a tutoring session. Ever since I lost my last job, I’ve had trouble sleeping. I wake at four like clockwork, debts and fears pressing in. I should have told Dana to take a sleeping pill and that
I’d call her in the morning.

As I round the bend, Winderlea looms into view, dark and brutal over the treetops. The grounds are magical, overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca. But that house! Even by Scottish Baronial standards, it’s an eyesore. The porch is as dark and deep as a cavern. And its ominous chimneys look like watchtowers. You couldn’t pay me to live there—and I live in a basement.

I’m not sure how Dana stands it.


I reach in to undo Ruby’s seat belt. She smiles in her sleep. The sight softens my jaw. There’s nothing as precious as a sleeping child. Nothing as fragile.

She murmurs and twitches as I struggle to lift her out. “Shhhh, baby.” I balance her on my hip and slam the car door.

At five, Ruby’s too big to comfortably carry. Her chin grinds my shoulder as I plod up the cobbled path. The air smells of cedar and the ocean.

As I approach the house, I stare at the huge blocky thing, its tall windows aglitter. Built in 1908, it’s the real deal, one of those grand old piles with a name, not some pseudo-aged plywood McMansion. Tonight it’s unlit, which is odd, albeit a blessing—it’s even uglier floodlit. Normally, come dusk, Winderlea lights up like the Titanic.

In my arms, Ruby startles, as if the house woke her. I shift her weight and stroke her hair. It’s silky in my fingers. Her breath’s warm on my neck. I keep stroking her hair. Her stiff body loosens.

I’m climbing the never-ending stairs to the front porch when Dana appears, a thin, ghostly blur. “Jo?” she calls. It’s too dark to see her clearly. “Oh, thank God!” she says. “Come inside!”

Thighs straining, I stagger on.

I’m at the lip of the porch when some faint light paints Dana’s face. Shock stops me. One eye’s puffed half shut. Her top lip’s busted. This wreckage is tear-stained.

My voice rings loud in the silence. “Jesus! Did someone hit you?”

Was it Stan? That bastard! Unless it was Owen? But no, he’s not had an outburst in years. I teach Owen tenth-grade English. He’s an odd kid but okay, with an underdog’s knack for ironic humor. He’d never hurt his mother. Nor would Chad, his golden boy twin brother.

“Shhhh,” hisses Dana. She steps back and inside. “Lock the door.”

I lean back to balance my sleeping daughter and push the heavy door shut. High overhead, a chandelier twinkles. Its glow doesn’t reach us. This house absorbs warmth and light.

I shiver. It’s colder inside than out. “Dana?” I say, alarmed. “What’s going on?”

Instead of answering, she retreats. Her voice floats free, a ragged stage whisper. “This way. I need to show you.”

About Author Elka Ray

Elka Ray is the author of the mystery Divorce is Murder, set in her hometown of Victoria, B.C., Canada. A joint UK/Canadian citizen, Elka has spent two decades living as an expat in Vietnam, working as a journalist, researcher, copy editor, and communications consultant. She lives by the beach with her husband and three children. A Friend Indeed is her first foray into psychological suspense.

Links to Elka’s websites, blogs, books, #ad etc.:

Amazon Kindle: https://amzn.to/4bc7RTn

Amazon Paperback: https://amzn.to/4bbk1fj

Amazon Hardcover: https://amzn.to/4amAIDf

Blackstone Publishing: https://www.blackstonepublishing.com/products/book-fvti?_pos=1&_psq=elka+ray+-+a+friend+indeed&_ss=e&_v=1.0

Official Website: ElkaRay.com

Facebook: /elkaraybooks

Instagram: @elka.ray

Threads: @elka.ray


Special Giveaway: Elka will give away a print copy (U.S. Only) of A FRIEND INDEED to one lucky reader who comments on her Karen’s Killer Book Bench blog. Good luck!

Happy Reading!


Thanks, Elka, for sharing your book with us!

Don’t miss the chance to read this book!



9 thoughts on “Karen’s Killer Book Bench #Domestic #Thriller: A FRIEND INDEED by Elka Ray”

  1. Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench, Elka. What an intriguing story line. What would you do for a friend who saved you? I’m not sure I’d hide a body, despite my teasing of friends that I’d be up for it. This story promises to be rife with conflict. Thanks for sharing your book with us today, Elka!

  2. Hi Elka, wow, your book sounds and looks very intriguing!! Thank you so much for sharing about it.

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