“Those We Left Behind” by Stuart Neville – Book Review

What if you had only one person in all the world?  What if that person was your older brother?  What if your loyalty and love for that person was eclipsed by the fact that you are mortally afraid of him?those we left behind

This is the dilemma of Ciaran Devine.  At a tender age, he and his brother Thomas were put into foster care.  At the age of twelve Ciaran confessed to the murder of his foster father.  Both he and Thomas were put into a young offenders unit.

Detective Chief Inspector Serena Flanagan of the Belfast Police is the policewoman who put the Devine brothers away.  A breast cancer survivor, she pines for her husband’s attention even though he seems physically repulsed by her surgery scars…  Haunted by the young Ciaran ever since he confessed , she has always suspected that his confession was made in order to protect his elder brother Thomas.

Thomas Devine is angry and broken.  A psychopath.  Irreparably damaged by the traumas of his past.  He has complete control over Ciaran and has taught Ciaran to bury his emotions.  When Ciaran does something Thomas does not approve of,  in addition to psychological domination, he bites him.human bite on arm

Ciaran, needy, and so very young, feels a strong connection to DCI Flanagan.  She has been kind to him… and understanding.  Now, after seven years of being locked away, Ciaran Devine is free.  He has no experience of the world, and he has few, if any, coping skills.  He is torn between love and hate for his brother, Thomas.  His probation officer, Paula Cunningham, 36 years old, is battling her own demons.  Lonely and prone to drinking alone, she lives with her dog, Angus.

Daniel Rolston is the son of the man whom the Devine brothers murdered all those years ago.  He was an only child until his parents decided to foster those in need of parents.  He was the kind of boy whom others found easy to bully.  His life is irrevocably changed when the Devine brothers come to live in his house.  When his father is murdered, his mother never recovers and kills herself a few years later.  Now, seven years have past, and Daniel, alone in the world – and damaged, realizes that the Devines have been freed…

Days after Ciaran Devine is released, Daniel Rolston is fatally stabbed.  The Devine brothers are the chief suspects.  DCI Serena Flanagan and her underling, DC Ballantine are put on the case.police_service_of_NIWill Ciaran remain loyal to his brother Thomas?  Or, will he realize that he IS his own person and divulge the real truth? And… what IS the real truth?

A well crafted police procedural mystery, “Those we left behind” is one of those books that make a profound, positive impression on the reader.  It does make for unsettling reading due to some disturbing scenes, but they are so well rendered that you can’t help but feverishly turn the pages.  The author displays acute psychological understanding and the characters are written with empathy and candor.  The setting is rendered in such a way that it displays the lingering partisan sentiment in Northern Ireland in the years following the “Troubles“.  The conclusion portrays a fitting and satisfying resolution to the novel and the dustjacket is even more poignant after finishing the story.

A Belfast street with the RISE sculpture in the background

A Belfast street with the RISE sculpture in the background

“Those we left behind” is the first title I have read by Stuart Neville and is the first in a series featuring DCI Serena Flanagan.  I now know that he is an author I will follow with alacrity and I look forward to following this series to its conclusion.F 5 star

I received a digital copy of this novel from http://mysteriescrimethrillers.blogspot.ca/ in exchange for my candid review.

Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville’s debut novel, THE TWELVE (published in the USA as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the LA Times. He has been shortlisted for various awards, including the Barry, Macavity, Dilys awards, as well as the Irish Book Awards Crime Novel of the Year. He has since published six more critically acclaimed books.

His first five novels have each been longlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and RATLINES was shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.

Stuart’s novels have been translated into various languages, including German, Japanese, Polish, Swedish, Greek and more.

His fourth novel, RATLINES, about Nazis harboured by the Irish state following WWII is currently in development for television.

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.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Favorite books, Mystery fiction, Page turners, Psychological thrillers, Suspense and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to “Those We Left Behind” by Stuart Neville – Book Review

  1. Pingback: #BookRecommendations with titles that start with the letter ‘T’ #GreatReads #ReadingForPleasure | Fictionophile

  2. Megan @ bookslayerReads says:

    This book sounds great! Nice review 🙂


  3. skyecaitlin says:

    WOW, and as you know this goes on my TBR and B and N lists. This has a most enticing premise, and the array of characters all suffering from within alerts me that this is heavily character driven, and makes me wonder how many people in this world wear masks that hide their inner thoughts. It also sounds suspenseful and contemplative.


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