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Richmond, T R - 'What She Left'
Hardback: 384 pages (Apr. 2015) Publisher: Michael Joseph ISBN: 0718179366

Alice Salmon, a fifteen-year-old girl, in 2001, writes a winning 1000-word article about 'what's in a name' published in the Arts Council magazine. The article begins the book, as an introduction to Alice and who she is. This is quickly followed by the report of a posting on the Southampton StudentNet online forum, dated 5 February 2012; there's been an accident down by the river. There follows a series of postings from concerned (and nosy) students: Alice (now 25) is dead, some sort of river accident. Was it suicide, or murder?

There follows a letter from Prof. Jeremy Cooke, except it doesn't read as a proper letter, more a set of jumbled thoughts, and includes much backward language such as 'don't give yourself a heart attack, old boy'. Next, a short excerpt from Alice's twitter biography (2-3 lines) is then followed by an extract from her diary. And then another blog post, letter, e-mail, twitter feed, facebook posting etc etc.

The whole style of the book lurches from one type of media to another, detailing the relationship between Alice Salmon and Jeremy Cooke, as well as Alice's family, boyfriend Luke and so on, in a rambling attempt to find out why Alice died, and the effect of her life and death on those left behind. Jeremy pieces stuff together for a book, and this feeds into the storyline as well.

Overall, it's an interesting approach to use, but it makes for very difficult reading. The self-absorbedness of the main characters is off-putting. There is lots of input from a range of people who knew Alice, including Alice herself, to relate what happened to her between age fifteen and her premature death, reactions to her death and reports in the press etc, but with a mixture of media, and an inconsistent time-line, it all makes for a very difficult read. The main characters are difficult to engage with, and while I can appreciate what the author was trying to do, it didn't work for me. I suspect this may be a book that you either love or hate, and I'm afraid I was in the latter category.

Michelle Peckham, England
June 2015

More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 20/06/2015 21:17