Alice Salmon has died. Whether it’s an accident or suicide is yet to be determined, but the death is one that touches many including Professor Jeremy Cooke. Cooke wasn’t one of Alice’s teachers, but he was smitten by the coed nonetheless. His affection is thanks in no small part to the long-running affair he’d had with her mother decades ago.
Cooke, an anthropologist, makes a project out of collecting bits and pieces of Alice’s life. Tweets, Facebook posts, texts, emails… all of the things that seem to make up a person’s public persona in the twenty-first century. What emerges from the study is not a girl who is troubled to the point of taking her own life, but a girl who has been threatened with violence and danger. Could it be that Alice was murdered and that Cooke holds the key to the killer’s identity?
T. R. Richmond’s debut is a great twist on the epistolary novel. There is no straight narrative in the book at all. Instead, letters between Cooke and his longtime pen pal provide a framework and insight into Cooke’s own thoughts and interactions with the various players in the story. The other characters’ stories come through via the various social media and correspondence gathered and arranged as part of Cooke’s project.
The “chapters” make for the kind of pacing you’d expect out of a suspense driven plot but the story itself is more of a drama than a true thriller. As a result, is the kind of book I believe will appeal to thriller readers as well as fans of more character-driven fare.
1/16 Becky LeJeune
WHAT SHE LEFT by T. R. Richmond. Simon & Schuster (January 5, 2016). ISBN 978-1476773841 320p.