The Life I Left Behind – Colette McBeth – Review


Publication date – 1 January 2015


“Everyone tells her she’s a survivor. No-one knows she’s dead inside.

She’s dead but she’s the only one who knows what really happened;

What your friends have said.

What the police missed.

Who attacked you.

So if you want the truth who else are you going to turn to?”

4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via Bookbridgr and this is my honest opinion of the book.

Melody Pieterson is dead. At least the old Melody is. Nearly 6 years ago she was attacked, left for dead. Emerging from a coma she had no recollection of the attack. Left shocked by the revelation of the identity of her attacker, she withdrew from herself, becoming a virtual hermit. Eve Elliot didn’t believe the person convicted of attacking Melody was guilty. In fact she knows exactly who did attack Mel. The same person killer her. Strangled, she is left in the same place as Melody was dumped, a bird charm necklace in clasped in her hand, just like Melody. DI Victoria Ritter investigates Eve’s murder, realising that Melody’s attack is the key to it all.

The story is told alternatively by Eve, who narrates after her death, Mel and Victoria Ritter. This is a great story telling device. You soon come to feel for all three main characters and I found myself compelled to read more so I could see who was narrating next, and find out what facet of the story they would reveal.

Colette McBeth has the ability to create characters that immediately make their mark on you, be they minor characters or those that play a major role in the story. I found myself moved by the character of Jim, who appears only briefly but who in his few appearances, is portrayed as a kind, sensitive soul. Melody’s boyfriend immediately appears to be the exact character he turns out to be and Ned, Eve’s friend, is one I’d want as a friend of my own.

Melody is a complex character. She extracts sympathy and yet at the same time some of this is taken away as before the attack, whilst being flawed as everyone is, she wasn’t always the nicest of people. After the attack and Eve’s death as she reads Eve’s research into her attack we slowly see cracks appear in the walls she has built around herself, and the new Melody begins to emerge, improved and stronger.

Eve is one of my favourite characters. Her narrative is touching and sad, yet her humour still appears in places. Her willingness to help others leads to her death but she is aware her actions were not selfless, that investigation the attack gave her purpose. Her reflections on what she looses when she is killed are particularly poignant and cause reflection in the reader, or this reader at least.

DI Ritter perhaps appears less than Eve and Melody yet she has no less impact with the reader. She is aware of the flaws in the original investigation, she is aware of her own shortcomings, in both the previous investigation and with her family and her conspicuous absence from the lives of her husband and children. Doug, her husband is an entertaining character. Again another ‘minor’ player who made an impression on me. I am also not the only early reader to be captivated by McBeth’s writing and drawn into her characters worlds. DI Ritter’s compassion and tenacity has captured the imagination of readers and there have been calls for her to return in the future. I am one of those who hopes she does.

The narrative is compelling. The fact that the story is told from the viewpoint of three separate characters drives the story on, providing different facets of the same information to gradually allow the reader to the draw their own conclusions before the dramatic finale. I had guessed the killer’s identity quite early in the story but this did not spoil my enjoyment. In fact, part of the enjoyment was seeing how the story would reach its conclusion.

Colette McBeth is establishing herself as a great addition to the psychological thriller genre. I still have her debut Precious Things to read and will be doing so, sooner rather than later.

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