The One I Left Behind Book Review

The One I Left Behind Book Cover The One I Left Behind
Jennifer McMahon
Fiction, Thriller


At a Glance

The summer of 1985 was a turning point in the life of Reggie Dufrane. She was thirteen years old when her hometown of Brighton Falls, CT was targeted by a serial killer. Neptune, as the killer was nicknamed by the press, would kidnap local women and hold them captive for five days. On day one, he would leave a severed hand of the victim by the police headquarters. On day five, the lifeless body of the woman would be posed by a local landmark. As the police scrambled to find Neptune, Reggie and her friends, Charlie and Tara, mount their own investigation, mainly just as a way to pass time. But, the stakes are raised when Reggie's own mother, Vera, disappears, and her hand shows up at the police department. Reggie, Charlie, and Tara try their best to find Vera, but their search is fruitless. Vera's body is never recovered, and Neptune is never heard from again.

Until, twenty-five years later, when Vera, presumed dead after all of these years, turns up in a homeless shelter. Reggie, now a successful architect, returns to Brighton Falls to take care of her mother. The police and media catch wind of Vera's homecoming, and try to speak to her to find out who Neptune was. Vera is battling cancer and experiences varying levels of lucidity. But then, Neptune resurfaces and Tara, Reggie's old friend, is his latest victim. Reggie must try to navigate her memories as well as her mother's to solve the mystery of Neptune and save Tara before it's too late.

My Review

I’m a big fan of thrillers, most likely stemming from my love of Law & Order: SVU. So, this book seemed to be right up my alley with a serial killer and a twenty-five year-old mystery. I’ve read a few other Jennifer McMahon thrillers in the past, but I have to say that The One I Left Behind was the one that most impressed me.

The story starts off with Reggie receiving a phone call informing her that her mother, Vera, has been found alive after being missing for 25 years. Right off the bat, you’re caught up in the suspense: Who is Neptune? Where has Vera been for all of these years? From there the story alternates between present-day (narrated by adult-Reggie) and 1985 (narrated by teenager-Reggie).  You’re able to get to know 13 year-old Reggie, and learn about the complicated relationship she had with her mother. The present-day chapters give you an understanding on how Vera’s disappearance affected Reggie, and how she’s still dealing with those issues. You meet a variety of characters, and it seems there’s a possibility that anyone could be Neptune.

Overall, I really enjoyed The One I Left Behind. Once I got used to the back and forth narration, I felt the plot moved at a fairly fast pace. I found myself reading as quickly as possible to try to figure out who Neptune was and what happened to Vera. McMahon drops little clues throughout the story, and it was fun to try to guess who the serial killer was. The end payoff was worth it, as I was surprised by the final twist.

The One I Left Behind is a quick read, but it packs a punch. If you’re into criminal thrillers, I think you’ll definitely be a fan!

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