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Monday 9 January 2017

‘What Remains of Me’ by A L Gaylin

Published by Arrow,
1 December 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-78475618-7 (PB)

Once a convicted murderer, always a convicted murderer – and, it would appear, top of the suspect list in other, broadly similar murder cases.

Kelly Lund has been out of prison for five years after serving a long sentence for shooting a famous Hollywood film director. Through a tangle of relationships brought about by a close-knit film world, she is now married to the director’s best friend’s son. And when her father-in-law is found dead, Kelly is the investigation team’s first port of call. Naturally. She’s done it before, after all, albeit thirty years ago when she was a drug-addled teenager.

Alison Gaylin’s previous novels have shown her to be adept at juggling time frames, and it’s a talent she makes good use of here. The action shifts between 1980 and 2010: the build-up to the first murder and the aftermath of the second. Questions are posed, seeds of doubt sown, secrets slowly revealed. 

That tangle of relationships is quickly resolved into a cast of characters who portray a  Hollywood which lies unseen behind the brittle allure of celebrity magazines: a Hollywood where parties fuelled by drugs and alcohol are a way of life, all tastes, however unsavoury, are catered for, and big names wield unhealthy quantities of power. The two time frames serve to illustrate the consequences which inevitably ensue, some negative, some less so; and at the same time Gaylin paints a vivid picture of a world remote from most people’s experience.  

I found myself reluctant to put the book down, and finished it in a couple of sittings. Characters put flesh on the bones of a story, and it was these characters who made the unfolding narrative grip my attention; Kelly herself is naive, stuck in a time warp, robbed of her youth and young adulthood by decades in prison. The others too: sharp, individual and real in both time frames, they made me want answers to all those questions. How did Kelly’s twin sister die? Why did glamorous Bellamy befriend the plainest girl in the school? What were Kelly’s and Bellamy’s parents all hiding? What happened to stunningly handsome, sweet-natured Vincent? And above all, is Kelly guilty?

In a world of highly competent midlist crime writers, Alison Gaylin stands out. If she doesn’t get her break into bestsellerdom soon, there’s no justice.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

Alison Gaylin's debut book was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best First Novel category. A graduate of Northwestern University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, Alison lives with her husband and daughter in upstate New York.

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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