Publication date June 2022
-For nine months, Alfie has been caring for his twin daughters after the sudden death of their mother, Pippa. One night, he wakes to find them at the foot of his bed, and hears the chilling words: Daddy, there’s a man in our room. Alfie finds no sign of any man, but it isn’t long before the name Black Mamba invades the family’s everyday routine.
What seemingly begins as an imaginary friend quickly develops into something darker, potentially violent. Alfie turns to Julia – Pippa’s twin and a psychotherapist – for help. But as Black Mamba’s grip on the girls tightens, Alfie and Julia must contend with their own unspoken sense of loss, their unacknowledged attraction to one another, and the true character of the presence poisoning the twins’ minds…
Friend writes a cold, claustrophobic atmosphere for Black Mamba. The weight of grief upon the small family alongside their guarded behaviour toward eachother gives the characters a gloomy outlook. I sympathised with Alfie’s feelings of isolation as a widowed parent, being unable to share openly for fear of his in-law’s disapproval, a common theme I’m sure many would recognise in their own family units.
My first real need for information came not from the intrigue of Black Mamba but Alfie’s wife Pippa. Friend quickly layers up on secrets that held my curiosity. How did she die? Why does sister Julia recognise the twins story? What’s ‘happening again’? Why did Pippa hate her mother?
I also despised the mother in law, as I’m sure was intended, but I also found I didn’t care for the twin girls. As is often the case with fictional twins we are presented with one caring quiet, child and one demanding, controlling child. There’s something creepy about twins speaking in unison and communicating differently with eachother, the control one can exert over the other with only a look.
Alternating between the perspectives of Alfie and Julia we watch as a fly upon the wall in the present day and learn of Julia’s childhood with Pippa all in the very same house.
Nothing is ever fully explained in Black Mamba, if you like a neat ending this won’t be for you. There were several aspects I wanted Friend to expand upon, hints of interesting developments that never really matured. I enjoyed the read but was irritated by the ambiguity. An average read for this average reader.