2013 William Morrow
Finished on September 18, 2021
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
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.
The One I Left Behind turned out to be a great read for this year's R.I.P. challenge, but I wasn't sure about it when I first started reading the book. I didn't like any of the characters that were introduced in the opening chapters and the alternating timeline jolted me out of the story until I got further along and could anticipate each switch. And then there's Tara. Her manipulative hold over Reggie reminded me of the mean girls in junior high school. Ugh.
I almost abandoned the book, but decided to read a few more chapters. I'm glad I did, as it didn't take long to get engrossed in the mystery. I wound up reading late into the night, following each new lead, trying to figure out Neptune's true identity. There are several red herrings and with each new chapter, I changed my mind, sure that this time I knew who was responsible for the murders. The final chapters are so suspenseful and at one point, I found that I was holding my breath; I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!
I have to confess that I've owned an advance reader's copy of this book for close to a decade. I'm sure the publisher and author aren't exactly happy that they sent a reader an ARC only to have it languish on a shelf for so many years, but maybe my late-to-the-party review will create new interest in the book and the author's backlist. I know I can't wait to dive into some more of McMahon's suspense novels. Any recommendations?