What She Left by TR Richmond joins the trend for psychological thrillers that seems to be everywhere this year.
When journalist Alice Salmon is found dead, Professor Jeremy Cooke attempts to reconstruct her life by piecing together information from the Internet. Cook looks at her diaries, blogs and correspondence and also interviews Alice’s friends, former boyfriends and family.
The question troubling the various characters that Cooke encounters is how did Alice die? Suicide? Murder? Or simply through a drunken accident?
Like Cooke, the reader must work out which characters can be trusted and which are unreliable. And what of Cooke himself? Why is this elderly academic so fixated on reconstructing Alice’s life and do his connections with Alice and her family give him a motive for murder?
TR Richmond lets the story evolve through written fragments
TR Richmond’s debut novel is an interesting documentary-style thriller with an unusual structure where the story evolves slowly through fragments such as blog posts, online forum comments, Twitter conversations, even Spotify lists, that shed light — reliable and unreliable — on Alice’s professional activity, relationships and state of mind. This fragmentary approach presents challenges in character development and in maintaining pace but the writing is strong and there are some good twists along the way.
For me, the most interesting aspect of What She Left is the questions it raises about the online footprints we all leave. I can see this making for some lively book club discussions.
[Disclosure: An ARC of What She Left by TR Richmond was made available by the publisher via Netgalley.com]