Thursday, 25 July 2019

Book Review: Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin


Book: Never Look Back

Author: Alison Gaylin

Pages: 368

Read on: Kindle

Read in: 4.5 hours

Plot Summary: When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it's a business matter. It's not. Quentin's podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin's own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absolutely absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. 

Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. She knows her mother better than anyone—or so she believes. But all that changes when, in an apparent home invasion, Robin's father is killed and her mother's life hangs in the balance.

Told through the eyes of Robin, podcaster Quentin, and a series of letters written by fifteen-year-old April Cooper at the time of the killings, Never Look Back asks the question:

How well do we really know our parents, our partners—and ourselves?

General Thoughts: The premise of this book reminded me of some other book or TV show, but now,  for the life of me, I can't remember what it reminded me of! Anyway, the premise is not 100% original, but it has all the masala for the makings of a good, gripping thriller! 


Things I Liked:
1. The Bonnie and Clyde-esque murder spree of the 1970s is what first got me hooked to this book. A young, school-age couple off on a murder spree in the tumultuous 1970s in America was interesting for a number of reasons, but mainly, because this was also the Charles Manson era, full of political and socio-cultural turmoil and change in the US. So, a story set in the 70s, featuring a young serial killer couple was something I was quite excited to read about! Then, there is the whole podcast angle! I like the inclusion of true crime podcasts into crime thrillers! I enjoy true crime podcasts myself- click here to see some of my faves- as I find the storytelling and analysis quite interesting. So, seeing a mix of both those elements along with a daughter wondering if her suburban, housewife mum could've been a killer got me all excited about the book! 

2. I also liked the whole question around- how well do we know our parents?- because let's face it, no matter how close we are to them, they'd lived a whole life before we came into it and we will never really know how our parents were as kids, teens or young adults. Even as "grown ups", we will always see them as our parents and not connect with them at the age of 30-something with ourselves at the same age. So, I was curious to see how the author handles this dynamic and aspect of the plot and, I am happy to report, that it was, indeed, handled quite well. Robin learns more and more about her mother, her parents' relationship, the people in her mother's past etc. after Quentin shares his suspicions about her mother's past with her. 

3. Now, coming to the podcast aspect. Unlike, Are You Sleeping?, where a podcast is key to reviving interest in an old crime, in this book, we see the process that goes into producing a podcast- the research, the pre-podcast interviews, the chasing down of leads, the traveling to suss things out before including them in the podcast etc. So, it was quite interesting to get a glimpse into that process as well. Quentin and his producer/friend follow every lead that claims that Robin's mother is, indeed, the presumed dead teen serial killer- Alice Cooper. 

4. The storyline and pace are pitch perfect in this book. The book is a page-turner and with so much to cover, plus moving between the 1970s to present day and told from 2-3 different perspectives, there is never a dull moment in this book. Seriously! The book is told from 3 primary perspectives- Quentin's, Robin's and letters written by Alice Cooper whilst she was on her murder spree to her unborn daughter. Each of these perspectives are nicely done and work well together to bring the story alive. 

5. There are some good red herrings in this book. You are often left wondering if Robin's mom is Alice Cooper or is one of the two other appropriate aged women? You wonder if perhaps Robin's mom knew Alice in some capacity? So, that was nice that it wasn't the most obvious thing and even if you latched on to who Alice Cooper was or is, the events and characters in the book make you repeatedly question that assertion. 

Things I Didn't Like: 

1. I wasn't wholly satisfied at the end of the book. The mystery aspect was fine, it was just that I found myself with a whole lot of unanswered questions at the end of the book. Not to spoil anything, but we find out something about Robin's parents but are left with even more questions about their relationship and dynamics at the end of the book. It makes no sense for the author to do that and end the book in such a rushed manner. 

2. I wish there were not some too convenient connections in the book between some key characters. The mother of one character ended up knowing the sister of another and so on and all this during the key and central point in time. It was a too little too convenient! 

Rating: 4/5 

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