Title: The One I Left Behind
Author: Jennifer McMahon
No. of Pages: 432
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Origins: William Morrow
Bottom Line: Easy to read and fun – it is a great thriller that really does keep you guessing.
”The summer of 1985 changes Reggie’s life. An awkward thirteen-year-old, she finds herself mixed up with the school outcasts. 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, the most, Vera’s hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there’s no body and Neptune disappears.Now, twenty-five years later, Reggie is a successful architect who has left her hometown and the horrific memories of that summer behind. But when she gets a call revealing that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.”
Thoughts: Jennifer McMahon can write a thriller. In her latest novel, The One I Left Behind, she proves that she can write a character-driven thriller. Reggie is a fascinating character. Her tough-love exterior and need for independence and mobility is a strong counterpoint to the fragility of her mother. The search for Neptune, twenty years after he first disappeared, is a thrilling roller coaster ride through human nature. The big reveal will have readers on the edge of their seats, while Reggie’s continued growth will keep readers cheering until the last page.
As readers discover through the flashes through time, Reggie never loses that awkwardness and fragility she had at the time of her mother’s disappearance. This discovery not only creates a more vulnerable and therefore sympathetic character, it also adds an emotional element to the story. Reggie’s growth as an adult, as she finally learns to accept and move beyond the events of that fateful summer, are as enjoyable as the search for Neptune is.
The One I Left Behind is a suspenseful thriller that grabs a reader’s attention from the first page and does not let go. While the story itself is very strong, it is made even more interesting by Reggie’s surprising delicateness. The seamless flashes between 1985 and 2010 not only help drive the mystery, but they create an essential character development that adds to the story’s heart and ultimately its intensity. Reggie’s battle is not only with Neptune and his continued hold over the family, but it is with herself as well. Ms. McMahon adds plenty of twists and turns that will keep readers from guessing the truth until the big reveal. The entire story is an excellent example of a suspenseful novel done right and definitely worth checking out as an excellent way to ring in the new year.