Desert Isle Keeper
The Life I Left Behind
I like ghosts in novels. Whether they are helping the heroine solve an age old mystery or playing matchmaker to the clueless living, I think ghosts can add a lot to a tale. This story, narrated in part by a ghost and in part by a living woman, explores the connections between strangers and how someone we don’t even know can be the most significant person in our lives.
Prepare to begin with a bit of a creep factor. A young boy comes into his home (he was playing outside) and can’t find his mum. He searches the house until he finds her lying still, clearly dead. He doesn’t break into sobs or run for the neighbors. Instead, he grabs a blanket and spends the day talking to her; at night he pulls the blanket over them and curls up beside her to sleep. His dad’s screams upon seeing the boy and his mom are what wake him from his slumber. Shudder.
Fast forward many years. A body is found at a park by a frisky dog and his elderly owner. The police are called. Eve Elliot – the ghost/person to whom the body once belonged – tells us how she would have lived life a bit differently if she had just known how soon she would die. Over the next few chapters, alternating narration with Melody, Eve tells us all about how she used to work on a TV show called APPEAL which dealt with questionable convictions. And about the fateful night that would ultimately lead to her death. The night she met a young man named David.
Melody Pieterson has learned to cook. Meticulously. Gravy without lumps. Fancy dishes which require hours of shopping for rare ingredients. She is desperate to not think. To not remember what her mind has so desperately tried to help her forget. This Sunday she and her partner Sam are hosting a dinner for friends when someone turns on the telly. And she catches the news report of the body found in the park. Melody, who painstakingly avoids the news, is shaken. Somehow this feels like a portent.
And it is. For Eve’s body is linked to Melody’s painstakingly forgotten past. As what happened to Eve is bisected, what happened to Melody is raked over. Dangerous memories begin to surface. Menacing events begin to take place. A desperate investigation begins – but just where will it end?
Something I love in a thriller is seeing how ordinary events – things we do on a regular basis – can suddenly take a turn for the macabre. This novel has that in spades. Both women are living their lives the same as always, with an almost mundane feel to them, when quite suddenly they are yanked from that typical trajectory and thrust into one far more bizarre and terrifying. I also love how thrillers show us that indeed no man is an island. Someone whom we are barely paying attention to, who in no way occupies our thoughts, can have a profound impact on us. And the actions of strangers can bring a tsunami of trouble into our lives, taking us completely unaware. This novel uses all of that to create an intriguing tale that pits the average against the darkly extraordinary and awakens that primal survival instinct in all of us. You find yourself clutching the book or e-reader quite hard just to have something solid to hang on to.
Another positive for me was how the essence of Eve’s character hung on in her second existence, whatever that was. When we learn why she stayed behind it all makes sense in light of who she was when she was living. I also enjoyed watching Melody wake up from her long sleep.
Most of all though I loved how this book looked at all the relationships that tie us to life. As Melody begins to question just how well she knows the people closest to her, it makes us think of our own life. How closely are we paying attention to the people we love, the people we think we know? And just how well do we really know them?
Last year’s debut book by this author, Precious Thing, was a DIK read for me. It captured all the chills and thrills, guesswork, innuendo and anxiety that make up a good psychological thriller. This time around, after a bit of a slow start, I found the same thing happening. If you enjoy psychological thrillers definitely pick this one up.