January Bookclub Review: The Life I Left Behind

Saturday 31 January 2015 by

The Life I Left Behind, Colette McBeth, Book, Headline ReviewThe Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

Published by Headline Review

Five years ago Melody Pieterson was attacked and left for dead.

She coped by burying the person she was, locking away her memories and creating a new life for herself. Her attacker is behind bars. In four weeks’ time she will get married. She’s almost normal.

Then the body of another woman is found, close to where Melody was discovered. Like her she has blond hair and green eyes. Like Melody police find a gold bird cage necklace at the scene. And Melody realises her attacker has been out there all along.

The woman’s name is Eve Elliot. Melody sets out to discover everything she can about Eve to work out why they were targeted. But the more she gets to know her the more she realises what’s wrong with her own life. Eve may be dead but she’s the only person who can teach Melody how to live again.

~*~

We have Carole to thank for this month’s crime thriller choice for Bookclub. The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth tells the coordinated story of Mel and Eve; one a survivor and one a murdered woman, but their attacks were too similar to ignore, yet it just doesn’t seem right that the man who was convicted of Mel’s attack killed Eve, and it’s from there that things start to go wrong.

Narrated from several viewpoints (one of which is the deceased Eve – very like The Lovely Bones), you are fed the clues and backstory gradually, taking on the different opinions and finding that you are often just as in the dark as some of the characters.

I’m not a crime reader as a rule; and I tend not to be able to guess the ending or killer until I’m told, so actually often find I enjoy the experience every time I venture in to it. And this is pretty well done, presenting you with several suspects without even explicitly pointing the finger. You know from the start that the supposed killer can’t have done it, as it’s too easy, and yet you are never quite sure.

But ultimately it’s not the murder mystery that holds your attention. Mel and Eve are compelling stories, and their journeys of love, loss, grief and everything in between are the most interesting part of the story. They have rich, complex voices, and the claustrophobic nature of the plot keeps you closely connected to them. Of the two, Eve was my favourite as she seemed so vibrant against the nervous Mel, but it is Mel’s journey that is the most interesting. From a carefully controlled self-imposed prison at the beginning, Eve’s murder throws Mel’s life in to a tail spin, and she grows in to a stronger character with each turn of the page. Her character arc is powerful, and holds the whole book together. But Eve is someone you imagine as a friend, and the strange nature of her narration (first person, posthumous) makes her feel more real than the others.

As with any crime novel, it’s hard to review, as you can’t give anything away. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I can only talk about the writing. And the writing is strong, with clever characters, fast pacing, and no unnecessary over-explanation or rambling dialogue. McBeth is a clever writer, and knows her stuff when it comes to thrillers, making sure you are never distracted, and artfully executing plot twists that catch your breath.

I haven’t read her other novel (both are standalone), but feel the urge to try it, because her writing is exactly what I enjoy – nothing extra, and determined. It struck me whilst reading that I have no clue why I avoid crime books, and have to give thanks for Carole for reminding me of this fabulous genre! The Life I Left Behind is that brilliant crossover book for the hardened crime reader and the uninitiated.

What did others think?

The lovely Carole wrote a whole review!

What did you think of The Life I Left Behind?

February’s House of Blog Bookclub is the hugely anticipated The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard! Tweet your thoughts through the hashtag #HoBBookclub on Twitter or write on the wall on the House of Blog Facebook page.

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1 Comment

  1. This sounds exactly like my kind of book – I love a murder mystery and I love a multiple narrator story. Onto the list it goes!

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