Monday, 19 January 2015

Book Review: The Life I Left Behind

The Life I Left Behind
By Colette McBeth
Published by Headline Books
Format: Trade Paperback

Colette McBeth's latest novel, The Life I Left Behind, takes the reader on a roller coaster journey with red herrings, plot lines that morph and change in a couple of pages and characters who are not what they appear on the surface. McBeth chops up the standard thriller genre, and adds in new twists and turns.

The Life I Left Behind tells the story of Melody Pieterson who was attacked several years ago and was left for dead in Richmond Park. The man who attacked her, a former friend and neighbour, is finally out of prison, and is still saying he is innocent. Melody over the years has built a wall around her life - she has become like a Stepford Wife - reclusive, calculated, smiling on the outside.

Her life, on the surface, is back on track - she has a nice home in the country, and she is planning her wedding but something is nagging away at her especially after the death of Eve, an investigative journalist, who was looking into Melody's case. Her attack and death echo that of Melody's attack. Something strange is going on, and the attacker must be found before another body is found.

The great thing about this book is the way it whisks you up in the story and does not let you go. McBeth does this by creating a novel that isn't just a simple bog-standard thriller. There are flash backs to Melody's life before her attack, there are extracts from emails from Eve's investigation and we see insights from the Police investigation from DI Elizabeth Rutter, who is running the case. All three woman take it in turns to tell the story from their perspective, which I enjoyed as I think the plot would have been a bit flat if it was just from one perspective.

Melody's perspective shows she is still paranoid about her attack, and we see this in the way she has surrendered herself to her boyfriend - he controls everything, and she has also given up her career to stay at home. McBeth shows us a character who has created an artificial reality to make sure that she is protected from her past. Around her secrets and lies bubble and erupt.

DI Rutter must solve the case but also try to get the balance with work and home right. She is distance from her children and her husband plus she's making herself some enemies once she starts digging through Melody's case - some of the investigation doesn't add up. Maybe the wrong man was sent to prison?

Eve's perspective, reminded me of The Lovely Bones, as her viewpoint adds a supernatural element to the novel. Her perspective is told after she has died as she watches down on both DI Rutter and Melody as they both try to piece together Eve's investigation.

The characters are not perfect and at times are not likable but this is what makes this an interesting book. I like reading novels which have characters with problems and struggles. McBeth has created characters that appear on the surface to have it all but once you start scratching away at that seemingly perfect facade you realise that these characters are full of dread, fears, and secrets. McBeth is able to go to the darkest depths of her character's minds.

There are twists. There are shocks. There are great characters. The Life I Left Behind is a chilling, intriguing novel.

You can buy The Life I Left Behind from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy by Bookbridgr

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