Friday, December 28, 2012

Just Jennifer

The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon (William Morrow, January 2013)

In 1985, the residents of Brighton Falls, Connecticut were living in fear of Neptune, a serial killer who delivered the hands of his most recent kidnapped victim to the police station only to pose the dead woman’s body in a public place a few days later.  Thirteen-year-old Reggie is having a hard enough time between being the child of a single mother who has more interest in drinking and men than her daughter, dealing with being an outcast in school and navigating her friendship with Charlie, a detective’s son and Tara, a goth who never really lets Reggie in.  Now her mother Vera has been kidnapped and her hand has turned up at the police station, but her body is never found and Neptune stops kidnapping women.  As soon as she was able, Reggie left her home town and is now living in Vermont, a successful architect who specializes in sustainable structures.  She has lost touch almost completely with anyone from her home town, including her aunt, and has a hard time forming close relationships.  She couldn't be more surprised when she gets a call from her aunt that Vera has been found in a homeless shelter and is in a hospital in Connecticut.  Knowing it’s the right thing to do, even though she does not want to revisit her past, Reggie travels to Connecticut where she takes her mother out of the hospital and back to the house where Vera and her sister grew up.  Before she is able to sort things through, Reggie is confronted with her past head on the many ghosts and secrets she kept hidden for so long.  She knows that Neptune is still alive and watching everything and knows that she must put aside her fears to uncover his secrets before he kills again.  Jennifer McMahon deftly weaves a story that flashes back to 1985 with Reggie and Vera’s reunion and recovery.  She slowly reveals things, allowing glimpses of the truth, keeping readers off balance until the very end.  This novel easily combines a suspenseful story line with characters that readers will come to sympathize and empathize with as they face past and present demons.

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