STARRED REVIEW
April 14, 2015

Pushed to the edge

By Samantha Hayes
Review by

There seems to be no reason behind the string of teen suicides in the rural English village of Radcote. A young man dies in a strange motorcycle accident, quickly followed by the death of another boy. But were these really suicides, or were they murders? Perhaps these unexplained teen deaths are connected to the cluster of apparent suicides that occurred in the same community two years ago.

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There seems to be no reason behind the string of teen suicides in the rural English village of Radcote. A young man dies in a strange motorcycle accident, quickly followed by the death of another boy. But were these really suicides, or were they murders? Perhaps these unexplained teen deaths are connected to the cluster of apparent suicides that occurred in the same community two years ago.

In her new psychological thriller, What You Left Behind, author Samantha Hayes creates a town where suspicion and grief have settled on the community like a cloud that won’t disperse. She effectively conveys a sense of creepy urgency in her cast of odd characters that includes Gil, a young man with undisclosed “issues” who’s given to peeking in windows; the mousy Sophia, who manages the homeless shelter in town and whose son was counted among the earlier suicide victims; and Frank, a menacing, rank-smelling regular in town and at the shelter.

Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher arrives in Radcote for a vacation week with her sister, Jo. She arrives with her daughter, Stella, driving down “Devil’s Mile,” the road to her sister’s house, where flowers mark the site of the recent motorcycle tragedy. Fisher can’t help getting involved: Her creds as a cop make her hyper-aware of the strange circumstances that surround the so-called suicides, and her attention increases after her preteen daughter visits a local estate and horse farm and encounters Gil.

Meanwhile Jo worries about her 18-year-old son, Freddie, who suddenly loses interest in school and begins to disappear into his room for hours at a time. What’s happening to Freddie is key: He’s afraid to tell his family that frightening email messages on his laptop are delivering insinuations, demands and terrors that won’t go away. Sure, he thinks, “He could leave home, struggle to establish a new life somewhere. But one thing was for certain: wherever he went, cyberspace would go with him.”

Hayes knows how to ratchet up the suspense and the questions, including who’s behind the scary events—and why? She subtly magnifies the sense of foreboding that pervades both characters and setting. And this just may be one of those spine-chillers where not all of the loose ends will get tidied away.

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What You Left Behind

What You Left Behind

By Samantha Hayes
Crown
ISBN 9780804136921

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