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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The One I Left Behind

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: The One I Left Behind

The One I Left Behind

Author: Jennifer McMahon
Pages: 432
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Description from Goodreads:
Bestselling author Jennifer McMahon is back with a gut-wrenching mystery about an architect whose troubled mother has been found 25 years after being kidnapped-by a killer who is still on the loose.

The summer of 1985 changed Reggie's life. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school's outcasts-Charlie, the local detective's son, and Tara, a goth kid who has a mental hold over Reggie and harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera-an ex-model with many "boyfriends" and a thirst for gin-the most, Vera's hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there's no body and Neptune disappears.

Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind after that horrific summer, Reggie doesn't trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when she gets a call from a homeless shelter saying that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.

With her signature style, Jennifer McMahon portrays the dark side of adolescent friendship and introduces characters who haunt the imagination, along with a disturbing web of secrets, betrayals, and murder.

First Sentence: "It began with the hands."

Mysteries and thrillers really have never been of too much interest for me, but I do tend to make an exception for serial killer stories. I'm going to try not to look to deeply into myself as to why that is. I tell you this, so that you're aware that this is not a normal genre for me to read, just so you know to take my criticism with a grain of salt. While I did enjoy The One I Left Behind, I definitely think it will be a more powerful read for those more into the genre.

McMahon's writing is good, and this definitely falls under more of a literary category than most mysteries I've read. If you go for action-packed thrillers, the slow pace of this one might irk you. If however, you like well-crafted stories that slowly unfold to the reader, McMahon's will be perfect for you.

The story alternates between 2010 and 1985 third person limited perspective on Reggie, with occasional tidbits from a book written about the events of 1985. In 1985, a serial killer struck in their little town Brighton Falls, Connecticut. First, a hand, removed from the woman's body, would appear on the steps of the police station. Then five days later, the body would be located, naked and strangled. Then, Reggie's mother's hand appeared, but her body was never found. In 2010, Vera, her mother, reappears, crazy and alive.

The stakes are upped when Neptune captures another woman, Reggie's childhood best friend, Tara. With that the search is on. In 1985, Tara, Reggie and Charlie are searching for Vera in the four days before Neptune will kill her; in 2010, Reggie's doing the same for Tara. This narrative structure works very well, and definitely amps up the suspense in the second half.

Reggie has been emotionally damaged by her childhood, both pre- and post-Neptune taking her mom. Through her investigation into the serial killer, she comes to terms with everything more, and learns valuable life lessons. Her emotional arc ties up a little too nicely, but she will probably have setbacks past the window the readers get to see.

Though I'm not usually a great guesser of twists, I did figure out who Neptune was really early on. That really does not affect my enjoyment of stories, because, mostly, I just revel in how smart I am the whole time, unless I do not approve of said twist. I think the killer just so obviously had to be the person that it was, but, as usual, any number of other suspects will need to be cycled through first.

Literary suspense fans, this book is for you! Enjoy! I wouldn't be entirely opposed to reading more McMahon, but I just don't read enough of this genre to make that entirely likely, at least with my current reading tastes.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "'You're my one true friend, Len. The person I'm closest to in the world. I'm not going to pretend I know how to define our relationship, and I can't promise I'll ever be ready to move in with you. But I love you, Len. In my own fucked-up little way, I love you very much."

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Blogger Becky LeJeune said...

I'm reading this one right now. I'd hoped to get to it sooner - I'm a huge fan of McMahon's work and just about died when my copy arrived. I'm loving it so far (as expected)!

January 4, 2013 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Jenni said...

Oh I like that it follows the killers pattern and they know they have 4 days to find her before she's a goner! This sounds kind of like Criminal Minds without the behavioural experts of course! Yay for stepping out of your comfort zone!

January 4, 2013 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

This one sounds really interesting, and I think I would really enjoy the genre (even though it's not one I usually read). I love the idea of two stories happening simultaneously, across different generations.

And this line, .. I just revel in how smart I am the whole time made me literally laugh out loud. I have to admit at feeling similarly when I've uncovered the twist early on! Haha

January 4, 2013 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Oh cool, I'm glad you're excited. There's a lot to love, I think. From the comments I've seen, this is a really good one of hers.

January 4, 2013 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yes, the pattern was super cool! I'm not sure why I wasn't more into this book. I liked the writing and the story. Oh well. I did like it, though. It's a very solid three.

January 4, 2013 at 1:03 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

McMahon weaved the two tales together really well, I felt.

Sometimes the twist is lame, but if it's satisfactory and I figure it out, I always think I'm just so clever. :-p

January 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I was just looking at this book yesterday, debating whether or not to buy it. I put it back because I'm not a huge fan of thrillers myself. After reading your review I'll probably take it out of the library; the book does sound interesting.

January 4, 2013 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

I definitely recommend reading it if you're interested. Library might be a good choice; I do that myself when I'm on the fence. You can always purchase later if you think it's one you'll want to revisit.

January 4, 2013 at 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to be honest ... serial killer books kind of freak me out. But this one DOES sounds really good in spite of that!

Thanks for being on the tour.

January 4, 2013 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger nutschell said...

An intriguing story. And that book cover is haunting.

January 4, 2013 at 4:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Interesting synopsis, creepy cover, but don't know if this is my kind of read. Great review though!

January 4, 2013 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger Eli Yanti said...

New author for me, sounds interesting :)

January 4, 2013 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm a bit picky in reading mystery/thriller book. Sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing!

January 5, 2013 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger Kat said...

Ohhhhhh this sounds good, I love these kind of books!

I love the last line of the quote.

January 6, 2013 at 6:15 AM  
Blogger bookspersonally said...

I love when literary meets mystery/suspense... though must confess I am thrown by the little "it's up to you to save me" on the cover

January 6, 2013 at 8:28 AM  

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