Set in Belfast, 'Those We Left Behind' is an atmospheric and gripping psychological thriller. A 'must read' for all crime thriller fans. It follows foSet in Belfast, 'Those We Left Behind' is an atmospheric and gripping psychological thriller. A 'must read' for all crime thriller fans. It follows four key characters, along two timeframes which are seamlessly executed.
Ciaran Devine is being released on parole after serving seven years for killing his foster father. His older brother, Thomas, released two years earlier is anticipating their reunion. DCI Serena Flanagan has just returned to the department after recovering from breast cancer. Probation Officer Paula Cunningham has been working with Ciaran to help him adjust to his release from prison.
'Those We Left Behind' is narrated in each character's point of view. Ciaran portrays a quiet, insular, troubled and anguished child, even as an adult on release it was difficult to imagine him as a nineteen year old man. It was as if he hadn't aged mentally and just remained in the past. I read somewhere that this often happens. That there is little emotional or mental maturing in very young offenders. Time stays still. They remain in the past, unable to develop or mature. The world moves on leaving them in stasis. The 'outside' becomes a hostile, alien place. If this was Neville's intention to portray Ciaran as emotionally stunted then he did exactly what he set out to do.
DCI Serena Flanagan shows signs of being a maverick detective as she will fight to achieve what she believes in even if it goes against the grain and causes tension with her superiors. There is also a vulnerability about her which comes to the fore during her interviews with Ciaran.
Paula Cunningham, Ciaran's probation officer, believes he is innocent of the crime he confessed to and works towards helping him break free of the unnatural hold his older brother has over him and tell the truth about what happened that night.
Flanagan and Cunningham work together after a murder once again brings the brothers under suspicion. Each endeavour to unburden Ciaran of his loyalty to his brother, but Thomas is not ready to relinquish his hold and be abandoned or betrayed and trouble ensues.
There is another strand running alongside the main storyline about the paramilitary and the difficulties encountered by the community who want to live as normal a life as possible in the aftermath of 'The Troubles'. This is only touched on with the team leaders where Ciaran finds work, but it certainly has an impact and demonstrates the current tensions and compromises of working and living alongside each other.
'Those We Left Behind' is a character driven, emotional thought-provoking read about abusive sibling relationships and obsession. Highly compelling it is also about how violent crime affects everyone involved from the perpetrators, to the family of the victim, and the investigating team. Above all it show how there is never any real closure for those left in its aftermath.
'Those We Left Behind' is the first novel I've read by Stuart Neville and I was not disappointed. I look forward to reading what's in store for the main character DCI Serena Flanagan now that she has been awarded justifiably her own series after featuring in Neville's previous novels.
'Those We Left Behind' will surely generate some interesting discussion at book reading groups. Highly recommended.
Disclaimer: I received a complementary copy for an honest, unbiased review from the Publisher & Dead Good Books (GoodReads) Group...more