My rating: 3 of 5 stars to Maggie James‘s novel, After She’s Gone, a new thriller and suspense novel released on March 16, 2017. I was tempted to give it a 4, but since it’s the first read by this author and left a few open concerns, I’m settling on a 3.4999… still a very good read. Many thanks to the author, NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read this ARC in lieu of an honest review.
Why This Book
As part of my focus on reading NetGalley books this year, I selected a few new thrillers and suspense novels, mostly based on their cover and the short paragraph provided in the overview. I decided not to look at anyone else’s reviews, as a few people I know on Goodreads had already received and read this book. The NetGalley summary hinted at it being a psychological thriller, with a full cast of potential family members responsible for killing a 16-year-old girl. I sent in a request, thinking it had potential (I do like a little gore and family-type suspicions)… and was awarded the book by the time I woke up the next morning. Downloaded via Kindle onto iPad and began reading over the weekend. Took about 3 days to complete, given I only had 90 minutes each day to focus on books, despite it being Saturday and Sunday.
Overview of Story
Lori Golden, 22, lives with her mother Dana, sister Jessie (16), step-father Jake, and step-brother Spencer (23), in a small English town. Lori’s and Jessie’s father sees them from time to time, but they aren’t too close. Lori’s dating Ryan, who dotes on her constantly. But she’s got a sort-of-new-bestie in Aiden, who seems to be a nice guy, but is definitely keeping secrets.
One night, Jessie doesn’t come home. Dana, who is suffering from kidney disease and soon needs a transplant, is freaking out that her 16-year has gone missing. Lori tries to find her, but cannot. Spencer wakes up from a bad drug episode in a strange house and sees Jessie dead on the floor right near him, naked from the waist down. Though Spencer’s her step-brother, and recently decided to experiment with his bisexual side, he’s worried he might have killed Jessie and immediately goes into hiding with his friends.
As the cops track down evidence, it looks like Spencer’s guilty, and he’s arrested. Dana throws her husband out and goes off the deep end, getting sicker and sicker. Lori tries to keep it together between Ryan, and her growing concerns over Aiden. When several fires start burning down Dana’s rental properties, Lori realizes Aiden lives with his fire-fighter friend, Damon and one of them may be involved. She’s concerned Aiden may have killed her sister and set fire to the house to try to hide it.
Spenser confesses to seeing Jessie dead on the floor, but claims he didn’t do it. No one believes him, but Lori is starting to. Meanwhile, Lori reaches out to her mother’s brother to try to see if he can donate a kidney, as Lori isn’t a match, and the only person who was a match, Jessie, is now dead. As the plots thickens, Aiden reveals his secrets. Lori turns to Ryan for support and tries to get to know her new uncle, but Dana doesn’t realize what Lori is doing. It seems Dana’s brother has a lot of problems and should be avoided at all costs.
Everything collides in the last few chapters when someone kidnaps Lori, revealing (s)he’s gonna finish getting revenge on Dana for her past indiscretions. And since I won’t reveal any spoilers, it’s an explosive rage of secret revelations that suddenly jump out one-by-one until readers are left shocked at what has really been going on all along.
Approach & Style
The story is actually told in present tense, as opposed to past tense. I haven’t read many books like this, but it actually lends itself well to this story. It’s an omniscient narrator who focuses mostly on Lori’s point of view, but several chapters focus on several other characters to round out the story and help with the suspense and secret-keeping.
I found the dialogue to be particularly strong, especially given the secrets hiding beneath the surface. It was punctuated with good people and action descriptions, compelling drama and strong innuendo.
The plot is interesting and a little intense. While I don’t want to read about a 16-year-old being attacked and potentially raped, it was handled with appropriate care, minimal detail and the right balance of etiquette. As it unfolds, pyromania, abuse, family history, adoption and secrets play a major role in all the relationships. You know it’s gonna be 1 of 4 potential people, but you’re not exactly sure why until the very end.
Open Questions & Concerns
I guessed the culprit too early. I think some attention might have been focused here to make it harder.
A lot of coincidences, but it does make for good drama.
Had I not read a few things about the police department’s approach, I’d have had no idea this took place in England. It could have used more description on the setting and locale. But I understand it was a plot and character book, so background could be minimal.
It’s a good read. Nothing too scary. Nothing incredibly suspenseful. But it’s an even spread of being slightly unnerved the entire time, especially with it being in the present tense and you reading things exactly as they are happening. Not an easy task to pull off. I’m fairly happy with the ending, too. I’d recommend it to others, and I’d definitely read another book by the author.
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures.
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