Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Review: What Remains Of Me
I get my audio listens exclusively from work.  My habit is to go diving through our Overdrive collection and "wish-list" any audiobooks that happen to catch my eye.  Then when I need something new to listen to, I see what's available on my wishlist and run with the one that tickles my fancy at the moment.  I was in the mood for something suspenseful and What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin is set in Hollywood - with all the glitz, glamor and seediness one expects when reading a suspense novel set in Hollywood.  Should the author's agent or any entertainment types be reading my humble little blog - this book is tailor-made for one of those limited-run television series.  Get on that, will you?

On June 28, 1980, Kelly Michelle Lund pumped three bullets into Oscar-nominated director, John McFadden during a wrap party for his latest film.  What follows is the trial of the century that continues to fascinate 30-years after Kelly manages to get released from prison.  Why would a 17-year-old girl, albeit stoned on marijuana and high on cocaine, basically "a nobody," kill John McFadden?  What's the motive?  Kelly is tight-lipped and now out of prison for five years, isn't talking.  She's mostly living a quiet life in Joshua Tree when one morning she gets the news that her father-in-law, Sterling Marshall, has been found dead, shot in his home in the same manner as his BFF, John McFadden.  And naturally, Kelly is the prime suspect.

The story floats back and forth between 1980 and 2010 and shifts points-of-view between a handful of characters.  In 1980 Kelly is living with her single-mother, a former make-up artist who sells cosmetics at a high end department store.  Kelly's twin-sister, Katherine, a wild child wannabe starlet has been dead for two years - her body found at the bottom of a cliff and ruled a suicide.  Kelly is a loner, and outsider, at Hollywood High until she is befriended by Bellamy Marshall, the daughter of a Hollywood legend and a girl her mother wants her to stay away from.  But Bellamy is intoxicating to Kelly, her first real friend.  Ditching school, drugs, and Hollywood parties inevitably follow, until it all blows up on June 28, 1980.

2010 finds Kelly living in Joshua Tree, writing copy for a seedy cheater's web site (think Ashley Madison) and married to Shane Marshall (yes, Bellamy's little brother and Sterling Marshall's son - stay with me folks!).  They married while she was still in prison.  Their relationship is more that of roommates.  They sleep in separate rooms.  They had a sexual relationship early on, but that has since stopped.  Kelly has zero contact with his family.  They spend their lives in Joshua Tree until Sterling Marshall's death pulls both of them back in.

This book is all about secrets and I'm not exaggerating when I say everyone in this story is keeping a secret.  Every single secret in this story builds and builds until it manages to hurt every single player in this tale.  Everyone pays a price, all because of those secrets.  I'll admit, I coasted along with this story with a "yeah, yeah I know where this is going, get on with it!" attitude because for the first half or so I thought I had it all figured out.  Oh silly Wendy.  I had about 1/3 of it figured out.  Some things I spotted right off, but Gaylin peppers in so many twists and WTF-just-happened turns that this one kept me on the edge of my seat right to the end.

Since this blog is predominantly read by romance readers, let me state that this is a suspense novel although the relationships between all the characters is what drives the story.  I would not call this story overly graphic, but there are two murders and spoiler: mentions of statutory rape which are not graphically depicted in the story (end spoiler).  

The descriptions got a little flowery at times for me (this could be a product of consuming this book on audio though), but it's a story I ended up enjoying tremendously.  I liked how the author twisted her story around shattering my holier-than-thou attitude that I had it "all figured out."  She ties it all up in the end, reveals all the secrets, and blows the door open on the whodunit.  A solid suspense read with well-formed characters and a touch of soap opera seediness to sleaze it up.

Final Grade = B+


azteclady said...

Intrigued ::add title to wishlist::

ValancyBlu said...

Ditto azteclady: TOTES on my list as well!!

Wendy said...

Huh, I don't think this is why it was on my wishlist (pretty sure the blurb just caught my eye) - but turns out this book was nominated for the Edgar for Best Novel (it lost to Before the Fall by Noah Hawley - which I haven't read).