Talking Thrillers with Elka Ray: A Friend Indeed

Elka Ray is the author of the mystery Divorce Is Murder, set in her hometown of Victoria, BC, 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. 

We were delighted to chat with Ray to discuss her foray into psychological suspense with her forthcoming book A Friend Indeedone which Kirkus is calling “a searing psychological portrait of an old friendship, tested to the limits."  

TFx: Where did you come up with the idea for this book, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Ray: Some time ago I saw a meme circulating on social media about being a good-enough friend to help someone hide a dead body. It got me thinking: who would I help? My oldest childhood friend was a no-brainer. If she killed someone, there’d have to be an excellent reason… Of course I’d help her!

A Friend Indeed follows childhood-besties Jo and Dana, the former a cash-strapped single mom and the latter wildly wealthy. Jo loves – and owes – Dana enough to jump to her rescue. I’m not going to tell you if she made the right choice or not, but it’s tale of twisted secrets, tough choices, and loyalty stretched like old swimsuit elastic. 

TFx: What draws you to writing in the thriller genre?

Ray: I read the gamut of crime fiction, from cozies to noir and have an embarrassing true-crime addiction. Not surprisingly, this is what I love to write. Our world is mysterious and unpredictable. Thrillers both reveal life’s uncertainty and allow us to restore a sense of (fictional) order. There’s a resolution to these stories we often don’t get in real life. I hate the word “closure” because it doesn’t exist for victims of real-life tragedy. But in books, we get both answers and justice, which is a comfort.

TFx: How did you choose the setting(s) and time frame?

Ray: The book is set in the present-day in a small, fictional seaside town in Washington State. 

I spent part of my childhood on Canada’s Vancouver Island. A short walk from my childhood home takes you to a beach with clear views of the American coastline where the book is set. The Pacific Northwest is stunning, yet creepy. The color tones are dark—navy water, grey skies, green-black pine trees, red-barked cedar. Even on bright days, the woods are dim and the undergrowth is wild and tangled. I know and love this region’s climate and flora, which plays a big role in this book. One of the main characters is a florist so she notices plants and flowers.

As a setting for Suspense fiction, the Pacific Northwest is perfect. It’s beautiful—but we all know that seemingly pristine settings can hide deadly secrets.

TFx: What is the significance of the title?

Ray: Upon dreaming up this book, my first question was: “How far would you go for your best friend?”

My answer “A friend in need is a friend indeed” inspired the title.

I’ve always loved proverbs, idioms, and song lyrics, along with impactful quotes. As an epigraph for this novel, I chose a quote by the Golden Age actress Marlene Dietrich: “It's the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.

TFx: What was the last book you read that had a plot twist you totally didn't see coming?

Ray: Guessing twists in books you’re reading is an occupational hazard of writing suspense and mystery fiction. It’s hard not to stop and think, “Hmmmm, how would I solve this?”—and often be right. I would much rather suss out the culprit in advance than have the villain turn out to be someone nonsensical who feels tacked on at the last minute. Recent engrossing and twisty favorites have included None of This Is True by Lisa Jewell and Megan Abbott’s Beware the Woman.

TFx: Books often have a central message or theme. What do you hope readers take away from your latest work, and why is this message important to you?

Ray: This is a great question. I love stories involving morally grey choices and feel that all too often, we judge other people’s actions based entirely on our realities. While I have strong beliefs about “right” and “wrong”, it’s easier for some people to “do the right thing” than others.

I’ve spent a lot of time in developing countries and poor parts of developed ones. Many wealthy people seem convinced they owe their good fortune to their brains, hard work, and talent. These things do play big roles in success—but there are plenty of kids out there who could change the world if they weren’t badly malnourished, being raised in abusive homes, and lacking access to opportunities and education. And don’t worry—I’m not lecturing anyone in my novel! I just hope I make readers wonder what they’d do in a tough situation. 

Get Elka Ray’s latest release, A Friend Indeed, out now on Amazon

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 bigtime 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.

Thrillerfix was created by a group of bestselling thriller authors who wanted to build a community around their favorite genre to write—and read. Get recommendations for new releases and discounted ebooks from our expert editorial team, from bestsellers to hidden gems.

Read More ThrillerPicks

Talking Thrillers with Author Sarah Denzil: Silent Child
Talking Thrillers with Author Jeneva Rose: One of Us Is Dead
Talking Thrillers with Author Janis Thomas: Finding Grace