Review: The Life I Left Behind

I’ve always kind of liked a good thriller, now and then.  Once upon a time, actually, I’d read little else, kind of addicted to the thudthudthud of my chest as I turned pages in a hurry, devouring words and holding my breath, safe in the confines of my own home.
These days I read a lot less of the old thriller; I have to be in the mood for a book that gives me that familiar panicky feeling, for twists and turns that leave me gasping.  

I must’ve been in that kind of a mood then, this week, because I couldn’t put Colette Mcbeth’s The Life I Left Behind down. On the whole, it was a riveting read, and the last 15 percent or so (I read this on my Kindle) had me turning the pages like a crazy person; that thudthudthud I mentioned? The climax of this book gave me that feeling in spades. The premise is interesting, the characters – for the most part at least – vivid and well crafted, and the whole thing unravels at that sort of pace that keeps you on the edge of your seat, skipping meals and frantically speed-reading towards a conclusion that really is pretty damn satisfying.

This is the story of two crimes and interestingly, the narrative of the novel is split between three main characters – Melody, the victim of an attack 6 years ago that left her in a coma and now suffering from poorly disguised PTSD; Eve, who has just been killed – crime number two - possibly by the same person who attacked Melody years ago (yep, we’re hearing from a dead person here, which in and of itself is a pretty neat twist and works better than you might imagine) and Victoria, a police officer who worked on Melody’s case and is the lead on Eve’s.

I could have done without Victoria’s POV if I’m honest. There wasn’t much of it, just a chapter here and a chapter there which meant I didn’t quite get in her head, and there wasn’t enough of the whole police work (which usually I love) to hook me in, and so I was reading her chapters and counting the pages til I was back with Melody (who is rediscovering herself and reclaiming her life in the wake of Eve’s murder, a clever and interesting arc) or Eve (who has been investigating Melody’s attack in the wake of the guy who was convicted being released from prison and who may have been murdered because of it) both of whom I really liked, for entirely different reasons. Eve is an interesting narrator, her investigation into Melody’s attack thorough and intelligent and the way the intricacies of the story are revealed through Eve’s eyes, either via the research she leaves behind before her murder, or her recounting of her story alongside the investigation into her own death is fascinating.
As for Melody, she’s a great example of how a person is not always all they appear to be on the surface. Melody has an inner strength that even she didn’t know she had and when everybody – herself included – expects her to fall apart upon learning the man convicted of attacking her has been released from prison and is possibly back to his old (murderous) tricks, Melody does the opposite. What everybody thought would break her actually saves her, kind of, and watching her take back her life made for a very satisfying read

If I had to pick out a flaw, then I’d go with this: I kind of wish the secondary characters had been a little more fleshed out, particularly Melody’s fiancé Sam who seemed to undergo a personality transplant about a third of the way in that made me blink a little in confusion. The thing with books like these is that most of the times the supporting cast is just as important as the protagonist(s) and it can be just a tiny bit frustrating if you feel like they’re not given much attention until the chapter they star in. That’s a minor niggle though, because on the whole I really liked this book. The prologue was excellent and grabbed me from the get go; the clever way in which the threads of the story are woven together delighted me; and the ending was exactly how the ending to a good thriller should be.