Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Book Review: "Never Look Back" by Alison Gaylin

"Is there a way to stop something that's mean to be, even if it's something you don't want?"

In 1976, teenagers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy went on a killing spree in the Inland Empire area of Southern California. Twelve people—some known to the killers, some random victims—were killed before the couple died in a fire at a religious compound.

While the story of the murderers was tabloid fodder for a while and they even were the subjects of a made-for-television movie, they soon faded into the peculiar history of serial killers and were mostly forgotten. But not by Quentin Garrison, who has a personal connection to Gabriel and April's crime spree years ago, and he believes that was responsible for his lousy childhood.

Quentin is now a podcast producer focused on true crime, and both his husband and his best friend/co-producer convince him he should tie up the whole story as a way to bring himself closure. Yet when he receives a call from what appears to be a reliable source, saying that April Cooper is actually still alive and living in New York, Quentin is unsure whether closure will ever really be possible. Does he want April to be alive after all these years?

Meanwhile, Robin Diamond is a controversial film reviewer for a popular entertainment website. She's never afraid to ruffle the feathers of their readers with her opinions, even if it brings crackpots to the surface. She's having doubts about her husband lately, but isn't sure if she really wants to know what has him working late and texting at all hours of the day and night. Regardless of all she's going through, she's not prepared for a phone call from Quentin asking about her mother's identity. And when a home invasion leaves her mother fighting for her life, she doesn't know what to believe.

How well do we know our parents? Are they entitled to have secrets from us about their lives before we born, no matter how bad those secrets might be, or do we deserve full honesty? Can the truth really set us free, and is closure really possible?

I loved Alison Gaylin's new thriller, Never Look Back. As I've stated many times before, I tend to be really hard on thrillers because I suspect everyone and over-analyze everything, so it takes a lot to surprise me. Gaylin definitely threw some twists and turns into her plot, and while not everything was shocking, the combination of mystery, suspicion, emotions, and character development really made this a compelling read.

The book shifts narration between Quentin, Robin, and 15-year-old April (told in letters). There are lots of interesting connections that fall into place and lots of questions to answer. It's sad to see just how destructive secrets can be, potentially hurting not only those who have been keeping those secrets, but also having a ripple effect on others.

Gaylin is a highly regarded thriller writer, but this is the first of her books I've read. I'm definitely going to read some of her earlier books, because I love the way she tells a story, and the plot and her characters were so well-developed. This book starts on a slow burn, but as it picks up steam, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

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