“What you left behind” by Samantha Hayes – Book Review

What you left behind

U.S. title

Lately I have been reading and reviewing novice authors.  I love sampling all the wonderful new talent available.  This time however… I was in the hands of a master storyteller.  With seven novels behind her, Samantha Hayes has now perfected her craft and it is really evident when you read her books.

before you die

British title

The U.S. title “What you left behind” has been published in Britain under the title “Before you die“.

Synopsis:  Two years after a terrifying spate of teenage suicides, the remote village of Radcote has just begun to heal. Then a young man is killed in a freak motorcycle accident and a suicide note is found among his belongings. When a second boy is found dead shortly thereafter, the nightmare of repeat suicides once again threatens the community.

      Desperate for a vacation, Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher has just come to Radcote for a stay with her sister, Jo, but the atmosphere of the country house is unusually tense. Freddie, Jo’s son, seems troubled and uncommunicative, and Jo is struggling to reach out to him. Meanwhile, Lorraine becomes determined to discover the truth behind these deaths. Are they suicides, or is there something more sinister at work? Finding answers might help Freddie, but they’ll also lead to a shocking truth: whatever it is–or whoever it is–that’s killing these young people is far more disturbing than she ever could have imagined, and unraveling the secret is just as dangerous as the secret itself.

     Wicked, intense, and utterly compulsive, What You Left Behind confirms Samantha Hayes as a top thriller writer.

Publisher: Crown (release date April 2015)
ISBN-13: 9780804136921

book-review    “What you left behind” is the second novel in the thriller series featuring DCI Lorraine Fisher and her Detective Inspector husband Adam Scott.   They just keep getting better…  If you haven’t read the first novel in the series “Until you’re mine” – not to worry – “What you left behind” works well as a stand-alone novel too.

The opening chapter shocks and entices at the same time.  The depiction of the ‘suicide’ is so clearly rendered, that it remains in the mind throughout the novel.  The second character present at the scene remains a mystery until the last pages.  Just what I want in a mystery/thriller!

Workaholic Lorraine is much in need of a holiday.  She and her daughter Stella escape Birmingham for rural Warwickshire and her family home which is now owned by her sister Jo.   Upon arriving Jo tells Lorraine that she and her husband Malc have split up – and that it was her fault – as she had been unfaithful.  Their son Freddie seems to be taking the break badly, but it seems as though even more is troubling him.  Little do the adults in his life know, but he is being relentlessly bullied in school and online.   Given that there has been a spate of teenage suicides in the area recently, the bullying is a cause of grave concern.

Lorraine, ever the policewoman, is dubious about the most recent suicides and when she learns that the investigating officer is an inept copper she used to work with, she decides to do a little investigating herself.

The characters in this novel were so fully developed that I had no trouble picturing them in my mind.  Troubled Jo, her even more troubled son Freddie, their neighbour Sonia, who lives in the manor house and has lost her own teenage son to suicide.  Sonia’s daughter Lana, with whom Freddie is very fond.  Sonia’s brother-in-law Gil who suffers from severe autism.  Then there is Frank who works at the homeless shelter where Sonia volunteers.  He seems a disreputable character – and the suicide victims appear to have ties to the shelter…

With a tightly woven plot, a pervading sense of menace, great characters, the addition of some wonderfully misleading  red herrings, and a delightful rural British setting, Samantha Hayes has written a novel that was right up my street!  Every page was a joy to read – right up to the delightful twist at the end.

Highly recommended!   I gave it 5 stars on NetGalley, Goodreads and Amazon.  This is something I seldom do, so you can appreciate how much I enjoyed it!

Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for allowing me to read this book before publication.

Available at Amazon.com in hardcover or audiobook.

About Fictionophile

Fiction reviewer ; Goodreads librarian. Retired library cataloger - more time to read! Loves books, gardening, and red wine. I have been a reviewer member of NetGalley since October 2013. I review titles offered by Edelweiss, and participate in blog tours with TLC Book Tours.
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