Review: What She Left by T.R.Richmond

"What She Left" by T R Richmond

"My name is Alice Salmon. I hope I am more than 200 times these five words. I hope one day I will be."

I don't think I've read a thriller quite like this one! It's innovative, modern and complex. It's challenging. The reader has to piece together the story bit by bit, guided only by the different accounts and types of information that are presented without any extra explanatory narrative, forcing the reader join up the dots and solve the puzzle before it's clever revelation. An effortless way to build up more tension and ensuring that it is a real page turner!

The story is about Alice Salmon, a 27 year old woman who is found drowned. What follows are extracts from diaries, letters, blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook, emails, newspaper articles and magazine clippings from Alice, Megan her best friend, the ex boyfriend Luke, Alice's mother Elizabeth, Jeremy a professor from Alice's old university, and various journalists and acquaintances.

As The Times said, this novel is "strikingly modern". It explores how email and social media have affected the way people share information and how we use them to record our lives. It's innovative in the way it uses these forms to create multiple narratives, continually pushing the reader to try to untangle the jumble of information presented in such rapid and immediate forms. It's ambitious to include such a variety of voices, but Richmond successfully creates believable characters through very short passages and it is surprising how large and convincing the characters become through these extracts. I also found that as every extract was either only a page or three at the most, you were continually reading on and on, making the book "unputdownable". Although at times, the constant shifting of voices creates pace can be a little jerky and difficult to keep up with in places. This is further complicated by the fact the story is not told in chronological order. The actual form of the novel mimics the criminal investigation of Alice's death by constantly uncovering new information, adding background revelations and allowing characters to spill more secrets. Everyone is a suspect. No one is what they seem. You are kept guessing the whole way through and constantly changing your opinions about the characters.

The thing I found most captivating about the book was the way in which you relate to Alice. Far from feeling pity or apathy towards the victim, there is a great sense of loss. Extracts from her blog, twitter account and diary are dispersed amongst the other voices and used to explore who we are and what we can be generating a deeper sense of tragedy and depth to the plot. Alice is not a passive character. Although dead, she becomes more and more alive throughout the pages of the novel. Her voice becomes stronger; her passion, hope, talent and potential radiates from the text. The more we hear from her the more we wished she had lived and mourn her death. At the end you are left confused - satisfied by the ending but bereft of the loss of Alice. As Claire Kendal comments, she "mourned her more and more powerfully as the story went on".

If you enjoy crime, thriller and psychological thrillers then you will enjoy this original and intriguing novel.

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