What She Left by T.R. Richmond

I’ve been wanting to read something from the crime thriller genre but I find it difficult to know how to pick a good one. This novel falls into this genre but I’m not sure that it’s a great example of gripping suspense that you expect from a thriller. In short, I wasn’t that impressed.

The book started out well. It’s about a girl called Alice Salmon, who is found drowned in a river; the mystery is whether it was suicide or if she was murdered. The story is told through multiple narratives – letters, police interviews, texts, emails, newspaper articles, blogs, tweets, etc. – written by Alice and the people that knew her before her death. I liked her character and, despite the realisation in  the early part of the novel that she suffered from depression, it became less and less likely that she had committed suicide as the story progressed. Thus it became a quest to find out who had killed her and there were quite a few suspects.

I didn’t suspect who the murderer eventually turned out to be, so in some respects you’d say the author had done a good job. Yet I felt completely unsatisfied by the outcome as it seemed such a complete red herring and totally implausible. There was no hint of it anywhere in the novel (unless I missed it, which I suppose I very well could have done) and I was left feeling like the whole thing had been a big anticlimax. I know that there is a fine line between giving clues and completely ruining the suspense by giving away too much, but the ending really jarred with me because it seemed so random.

Another thing that I didn’t like, was the university professor character and his completely bizarre mission to write a book about Alice. I understand that this was clearly a way of making him appear to be more suspicious – and he certainly was creepy – yet, I felt that this was just completely unrealistic too. Would a professor really try to write such a sensationalist book about a murder whilst it was still in the news? It would be a completely insensitive and quite frankly, offensive thing to do. That’s not to say that the media is not often both of those things on a regular basis, but it was more that his reasoning for the book was very odd. His pompous character appeared overly forced and lacked the ring of truth that is vital to creating a story that you can get involved with. I don’t think he was intended to be likeable, but he wasn’t relatable either. Perhaps relatable is the wrong word here as there are hundreds of characters in fiction that are so different from myself it’s hard to ‘relate’ to them, but they have to be believable; you have to think, ‘yes, this is just what someone might do’, even if that thing is something you would never do yourself.

I don’t think I’m doing a very good job of explaining myself here, but what I am trying to say is that I couldn’t connect to the characters or events of this book because they were never more than just that: invented characters on the pages of a book. They didn’t ever become real people for me and so despite the dramatic subject matter, the novel was bland and emotionless.

I’m still very keen to find some great thrillers – sadly this just wasn’t one of them!

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