Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

The One I Left BehindThe One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description: 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

My thoughts: I read another book by McMahon a couple of years ago and was unimpressed with the story. This time around I found a strong plot and story along with strong writing.

The point of view toggles between present day-ish Reggie and childhood Reggie. I believe the book begins with 39 year old Reggie getting the call that her mother had finally been found. This was news long overdue as her mother was abducted 25 years ago by a quirky serial killer. Except her mother is alive but dying of a cancer. She drops her successful life as an architect and leaves her somewhat promising long time boyfriend to attend to her mother who is disconnected and very ill.

The mystery of the identity of the killer/kidnapper is a driving point to the story but so is unraveling Regina. Reggie begins the timeline as a child, untouched by violence and disappointment beyond the fact that she doesn't know her father. She lives with her grandfather and spinster aunt until her grandfather dies and later her mother disappears. With the disappearance Reggie makes discoveries about her mother and the idealization she had of her own childhood. Her home is never safe which is an interesting parallel in the 39 year old Reggie who lives in an impossible house and works in an office accessible only by an impossible bridge. The reader gets the sense that Reggie is grappling with stability and the idea of home. She makes it her life's work as an architect.

Without revealing the plot or the discoveries made by Reggie, the book continues in two timelines. Reggie grows into adolescence and discovers ways to forget her sorrows. More than one way. There is also a tragedy in the past that is eventually discussed. One that occurred by accident and involved Charlie's cousin, Sid.

The mystery is well laid out. The clues are revealed in good time. Reggie's life on both timelines are gripping and realistic. The conclusion leaves the reader closing the book with a happy sigh as Reggie not only has the answer to her questions resolved but she also discovers a new aspect of her mother that she did not know nor appreciate. Lastly, she has a new definition of home.

I am impressed with Jennifer McMahon and her story telling abilities.

*I received a free copy of this book from publishing company in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are my own.

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