I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.What She Left: A Novel by T.R. Richmond
Published by Simon & Schuster on January 12, 2016
Genres: Mystery, Psychological, Thriller & Suspense
Buy on Amazon
In this brilliantly modern novel of love, obsession, and revenge, a professor pieces together the life and mysterious death of a former student—and unearths a shocking revelation about her final days.
On a snowy February morning, the body of twenty-five-year-old journalist Alice Salmon washes up on a riverbank south of London. The sudden, shocking death of this beloved local girl becomes a media sensation, and those who knew her struggle to understand what happened to lively, smart, and savvy Alice Salmon. Was it suicide? A tragic accident? Or…murder?
Professor Jeremy Cooke, known around campus as Old Cookie, is an anthropologist nearing the end of his unremarkable academic career. Alice is his former student, and the object of his unhealthy obsession. After her death, he embarks on a final project—a book documenting Alice’s life through the digital and paper trails that survive her: her diaries, letters, Facebook posts, Tweets, and text messages. He collects news articles by and about her; he transcribes old voicemails; he interviews her friends, family, and boyfriends.
Bit by bit, the real Alice—a complicated and vulnerable young woman—springs fully formed from the pages of Cookie’s book…along with a labyrinth of misunderstandings, lies, and secrets that cast suspicion on everyone in her circle—including Jeremy himself.
What She Left had such a great premise. Young women dead, authorities not sure if it was murder or suicide. An old professor determined to find the truth. A trail being followed via social media, blogs and diaries. I was excited to read this and had hoped to add T.R. Richmond to my list of great psychological thriller authors. So I was disappointed when I closed the cover after the final line. What I read was not a fantastic thriller that messed with my mind, but a mash-up of thriller-like ideas that never quite made it.
What She Left suffered from too much plot. It was like Richmond wanted to throw everything he could think of in, but that left him without time to properly flesh any of it out. The characters were all generally unlikeable, even the dead girl was not a sympathetic character. The world created was disjointed and never seemed to fill out and the pacing was either too slow or too fast. The “big” reveal was so rushed it seemed to have been crammed in as a last thought. I was surprised by the “who-done-it” as I had not expected it, but I didn’t care by that point. I think What She Left could have been great if it had stuck to being one thing – a modern internet based thriller or a straight up mystery. But the attempted blending of the genres just did not work for me.
Favorite lines – I’m ignorant to much, Larry, but obsession is territory with which I’m well acquainted. Its coarse rub, its barbed spike, its musty spoiled sourness. The line between love and hate is paper-thin, and when you love someone and it turns to hate, there’s an inverse relationship between the two.
Biggest cliché – “I’m just helping, I’m totally not stalking anyone.”
Have you read What She Left, or added it to your TBR?