The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

the life i left behindWoe, woe and thrice woe!

😐 😐

A dogwalker discovers the body of a young woman, strangled to death, in a park. Oddly, we are told this by Eve, the dead woman, herself – her ghostly narrative forming one of the voices in the book. The main focus of the book, however, is on Melody, a previous victim of the murderer, it is assumed. Melody lived, but has lost all but the vaguest memories of that night and so can’t identify her attacker. Six years on, she is still trying to get over the psychological effects of her experience, and this new attack brings all the original terror back to the surface for her. The third viewpoint is that of the detective in charge of both cases, DI Victoria Rutter, who starts out convinced that the man she put away for the first crime must be guilty of the second too. However, events soon cast doubt on that and both Melody and Victoria have to consider that the first verdict may have been wrong.

I hold my hands up – I abandoned this book not far past the halfway point, and flicked ahead to see whodunit. Not that I cared, except to feel a little sorry that he hadn’t managed to finish the job properly on Moaning Melody. But I seem to be in a tiny minority – the book is garnering 4 and 5 star reviews, so I wouldn’t let my reaction put you off.

It was always going to be a big ask for me to take a ghostly narrator seriously – it’s becoming another of these tediously clichéd bandwagons that crime fiction seems to create so often these days. But Eve revels in her tragedy, constantly telling us of how devastated her friends and family are – how broken and lost they are without her. OK, this would probably be a true reaction, but it really doesn’t sit well coming from the mouth of the dear departed. I fear I got the image in my head early on of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn attending their own funeral, and every time Eve told me gloatingly of how her mother was drowning in grief, it made me giggle. Not the intended reaction, I suspect.

Colette McBeth
Colette McBeth

Miserable Melody, on the other hand, plunged me into dismal depression every time she opened her mouth. In real life, I would hope to have a good deal of sympathy for a survivor of a dreadful attack, but in crime fiction I feel there ought to be a limit to how much time we are asked to devote to listening to a monotony of woe. At one point, she says she knows the people around her want her to move on and stop wallowing in the past, and I felt rather guilty since that was pretty much my own feeling. It seemed strange that the dead girl seemed so much cheerier about her lot than the live one. Melancholy Melody’s relationship with her soon-to-be husband seemed most odd too. Given that she was terminally depressed, more than a little obsessive, and absolutely no fun to spend time with – a thing acknowledged by both of them – I couldn’t help wondering why he wanted to marry her. That was more mysterious than the question of whodunit, actually.

I didn’t get any feel for DI Rutter’s character at all – perhaps she was developed more in the second half of the book. The writing is OK for the most part, but not special enough to make the pseudo-psychobabble bearable – for this reader anyway. Sometimes a book works for you, sometimes it doesn’t…

Here’s a link to Cleo’s 5-star review to provide a bit of balance . Thanks for the recommendation, Cleo… hope you forgive me… 😉

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Headline.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

64 thoughts on “The Life I Left Behind by Colette McBeth

  1. But that’s precisely what makes life interesting: I like both you and Cleo, respect your opinions about books – but we are all different and each book will impact us in a different way. So it just makes for a good debate!

  2. The premise of this sounds quite promising and the dead narrator thing can work quite well. Sounds like it would have been better if she had survived and the Melody woman had been finished off properly instead. The author looks ever so pleased with herself in that photo; unfortunately that alone puts me off so I will be giving this one a miss.

    • Yes, I thought it sounded good, and loads of people think it’s great. I’m afraid I like my crime to be at least a bit entertaining, but it’s just a taste thing. I’m more likely to go to lit-fic if I want my feelings to be harrowed (plus Melody was just boring). Eve coped well with being a murder victim though, I felt… 😉

  3. Oh dear – I saw the 2-star (well, smileys) and knew it wasn’t good news. I still have this to read. I must admit, sometimes I quite like pseudo psycho-babble, as long as it sounds feasible. I started a book last week which I’ve had to put aside, but I will get back to it – instead of doing proper old fashioned police work, they’ve all been reading too much about the Behavioural Science Unit at the FBI – or watching too much Criminal Minds. All v glamorous, but in actuality most crimes are solved by pavement pounding than psychological profiles! It’s Good Girls Don’t Die, by Isabelle Grey. Not sure if I’ll like this one either…although I must admit, I like your reviews when you dislike a book. They can be v funny.

    • Thanks! Cleo liked it a lot, and so do loads of other people, so you might too – it’s all down to personal taste in the end. That’s why I gave it 2 rather than 1 – I don’t think it’s a bad book, just didn’t work for me…

    • Wasn’t to my taste, Susan, for sure. Yes, it’s becoming a bit of a fad recently – ghostly hoverings. I prefer realism in crime – keep the ghosts for horror!

      (Sorry to hear about your IT probs – I left a message for you on the ‘Glenn’ blog. Don’t know if you’re being notified of them. But you should be able to link your real blog to the avatar you’re using, I think… )

      • Thank you. I did get Glenn’s reply and I will get to it by and by. That has to be the strangest thing ever. There has been a rash of weird IT stuff…and incompetent IT guys. But I digress. I will try to detach Glenn from my blogs. If I botch it, I shall apply to you.

            • He almost did this evening. The tease. He was right by the house. I opened the door quietly and invited him in. He started up the step and then turned around and took off. So…yes, and no.

              Thank you for asking. I think if I had had his laser flash light in hand I might have coaxed him in. We live in the forest, and there are so many creatures. But still hoping for the best and a soon return.

            • George took refuge on the roof some time during the night. My sister heard him crying and tried to get him down. She ended up having to wake me up because he would not let her take him down. It was dawn and the sky was beginning to lighten. He would not come to me so we got the step ladder, and he was still out of my reach. So, I climbed up on the deck railing and Mary steadied my legs. George let me pick him up and thought he was just going to bolt, but that didn’t happen. I fixed him some breakfast and petted him while he ate.

              He still wants to go back out. We are going to have to be uber careful for awhile. He seems to be in good shape. Smarter than I gave him credit for!

            • Oh, I’m so glad you got him! I wonder what’s got him behaving like this – is he usually a wanderer? I had a tom at one point who regularly used to disappear for up to a couple of weeks at a time – used to worry me sick. But he was impossible to keep in – he would become really miserable if I tried. So I just had to put up with it and hope he’d come back when he was hungry…

            • I’m glad he is home, too. He took off once last summer right after my sister moved in. He was gone a week and then came home.

              Now…this may sound strange, but I think he knew there was going to be trouble. Three pit bulls two doors down had pretty well been abandoned by their owner. They had no food or water so they commenced to hunt.

              George was distraught when I brought him in the house this morning. Shortly after that, I looked out the window in the back yard and saw the murder of one of the cats that hang around our yard. I went running out there in my night clothes and charged at them (either brave or stupid) and the dogs left, but I was too late. Right after that, George climbed up on my bed where he as been napping in the sun ever since. It might be coincidence. Except I have noted that cats communicate in ways that humans cannot. Animal services made record time getting here, and after they left the cats that hang out in my yard all disappeared for the day. At least one is still grieving, I think. She has not shown her face since the dogs were dealt with. It could be coincidence.

            • It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he knew – they have a much better sense of approaching danger than we have, or even than dogs, I think. In fact, I often look at mine twitching and responding to every tiny sound inside or out, and wonder what it’s like to always be on full alert. They come straight from what looks like deep sleep to full awareness in micro-seconds.

              And as for grief, I know they feel that. When my tom Trix finally disappeared on one of his trips, his sister grieved for several weeks, even though they hadn’t seemed to like each other all that much. She lost weight and her fur started to come out till she actually had bald patches. The vet couldn’t find any physical problems and was sure it was a grief reaction. It was a while before she returned to normal.

              Glad he’s back, and also glad you didn’t come to any harm – brave, I think, rather than stupid! 🙂

  4. I am with you on having a limit to the amount of moaning I can take. For me, a murder mystery should be all about the mystery, and less about the murder. We know murder and violence are awful, but the fun is in puzzling out the crime.

    Maybe I am just a bit heartless though!

    • Well, I did feel a bit heartless re Moaning Mel, I admit, but I’m like you – it’s the crime solving I enjoy usually, not the angst of the victims or their families. Angst is for lit-fic…

  5. Thanks, FictionFan, for your candor. I actually rather like it when people I trust have very different views of the same book. It gives me a broader perspective on the book. As to this one…hmmmmm….not sure now.

    • So long as Cleo doesn’t challenge me to a duel…!!

      I don’t know whether to recommend this one or not – it didn’t work for me, but it wasn’t what I’d call a ‘bad’ book. Just a personal preference thing…

  6. It’s lovely to start off the week with a nice ripping. But I won’t accuse you of hating books, dadblameit!

    You did make me laugh about Miserable Melody and her husband. That’s a very good question…why he wanted to marry her. Makes one wonder what he’s like, you know.

    I think the author is staring you down.

  7. Haha of course I forgive you! It is odd how we agree on so many books but sometimes (and it seems to happen more on the psychological ones than other genres) we are at odds! You’re comment about the to-be husband made me chuckle too! Thanks for linking to me, I’ve had a few visitors looking at that review.

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