Desert Isle Keeper
Never Look Back
Fans of complex thrillers with a unique and sensational hook won’t want to miss Never Look Back, the latest standalone novel from author Alison Gaylin. It enters around a true crime-related podcast and one case with personal ties to the show’s producer.
Robin Diamond is a successful magazine columnist whose marriage may or may not be on the rocks. It’s clear to both Robin and the reader that her husband is hiding something. Robin is convinced he’s having an affair, but she’s not sure how she wants to handle her suspicions. So, when she’s contacted by podcast producer Quintin Garrison, she jumps at the chance to get involved in one of his episodes. At least, she does until she realizes Quintin believes Robin’s mother Renee might be connected to a string of grizzly murders committed in the 1970s by Gabriel LeRoy and his girlfriend April Cooper. Everyone believes LeRoy and Cooper died in a terrible fire, but Quintin has reason to believe that April is actually still alive, and he wants Robin to help him uncover the truth.
Quintin wasn’t even born on the terrible day April and Gabriel opened fire on a group of innocent bystanders in a gas station parking lot, but his life has been forever affected by the tragedy. His mother Kate lost her younger sister that day, and her family never recovered, and by the time Quintin was born, Kate was addicted to drugs and unable to be much of a mother to him. Quintin hopes that by finally talking to those involved in the shootings, he’ll be able to lay some of his inner demons to rest, and he’s sure Robin is the perfect person to assist him.
Of course, things don’t go as smoothly as Quintin originally thought they would, and he and Robin soon find themselves enmeshed in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a malevolent person determined to keep the past firmly in the past. Everything Robin thinks she knows about her own family history is called into question, and Quintin is forced to make the greatest sacrifice of all in order to protect her.
Most of the story is told from the points of view of Robin and Quintin, but we also see certain events from other perspectives. This sometimes makes it difficult to keep the large cast of characters straight, but if you pay close attention to what you’re reading, it shouldn’t cause you too much trouble. I was especially drawn to the portions of the book told in April’s voice. Hearing her relate the sequence of events in her own words brought her to life so vividly for me, and I found myself tempted to google her name just to see what would come up. Obviously, this is fiction and I never actually went so far as to search the internet for her, but the story really did feel that real to me.
Given that this is a book about murder, readers should expect a certain amount of graphic violence. The author doesn’t describe things in a way that feels excessive, but those who are troubled by descriptions of gun violence may want to pass this book by due to the disturbing nature of the subject matter.
This is one of those stories where every character you meet has something to hide. No one is who they seem, and it’s impossible to know who to trust. It’s also really difficult to feel a lot of sympathy for certain characters, but I got the distinct impression the author chose to make them unlikable on purpose.
Once you start reading, you won’t want to stop, so be prepared to spend long periods of time with this book. The pacing is pitch-perfect, and the twists are anything but predictable, making Never Look Back a book I’m happy to recommend to fans of dark and gritty novels of psychological suspense.