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Sunday 22 November 2015

‘The Life I Left Behind’ by Colette McBeth

Published by Headline,
18 August 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-4722-0599-5 (PB)

Looking into the life of the victim is often a key element in a murder investigation, especially in fiction – but the victim is the one witness who is unavailable for questioning. Usually.

In this twisty thriller, Colette McBeth has gone to some trouble to give the victim a voice. In the manner of The Lovely Bones, TV researcher Eve Elliott looks down on the life that was summarily ripped away from her and tells her own version of the story.

And if that sounds just a tad off the wall, well, occasionally it is; but McBeth gets away with it simply because Eve is such a strongly drawn character. More than that: she has left compelling evidence behind to help police and reader alike, and not in a way that feels at all contrived.

Eve’s body has been found in the same place as the victim of a previous attack, exhibiting the same modus operandi and bearing convincing clues that the two are connected. Enter DI Victoria Rutter, who begins to suspect that the earlier culprit, who has served a sentence for GBH, may have been innocent.

The previous victim, Melody, has recovered physically, but the attack damaged her psychologically. She has become reclusive to the point of agoraphobia, submissive and introvert where once she was assertive and outgoing, and obsessed by domestic minutiae as a way of avoiding the outside world. Then, when she is faced with Eve’s body of evidence, she begins to engage with reality again...

McBeth gives each of these three well-realized women a distinctive voice, and weaves their stories into a complex, gripping narrative which throws suspicion first in one direction then another, until finally it all comes together in one of those denouements that leaves you wondering why you didn’t see it in the first place. The trail of clues is there, but the path the reader is led along has so many twists and turns that the obvious is constantly obscured.

It’s intriguing, well-written and littered with characters who spring to life. It’s easy to imagine even the minor players having a life off the page; and by the end I wanted to cheer as Melody finally got her life back and chose to get on with living it.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Colette McBeth studied French and Spanish at the University of Liverpool. She started her career as a trainee reporter on The Journal in Newcastle before moving to Sky News in London where she worked as a deputy news editor. Deciding she missed being on the road she landed a job at the BBC as a news reporter and for the next ten years spent endless hours shivering outside courts, standing in muddy fields and filming on windswept beaches. By consequence she is an expert at applying make- up in the dark on next to no sleep. She has reported on many big stories and crime cases but her friends remember her for the coverage of the invasion of killer crabs in the sea around Norfolk. Colette started her first novel, Precious Thing, while she was still working at the BBC and finished it on maternity leave with her third child. She now writes full time and lives in London in with her husband and children.

Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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