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by Alison Gaylin
William Morrow, July 2019
368 pages
ISBN: 0062884352

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

NEVER LOOK BACK by Alison Gaylin asks us to question our pasts and whether we truly know ourselves and the ones we love. In 1976, teenagers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy went on a 13-day killing spree before dying in a fire. Forty years later, Quentin Garrison blames the killings for his troubled upbringing. A podcast producer, Quentin has been researching and interviewing anyone connected to the murderers for his latest episode. Then he receives a tip that April Cooper may still be alive.

Robin Diamond, a film columnist, is dealing with internet trolls and the suspicion her husband may be cheating. Out of the blue, she receives a call from Garrison, but she chooses to ignore his outrageous theory. Then, a home invasion leaves her doubting everything she's even known. Is her sweet and happy mother really the deadly April Cooper?

NEVER LOOK BACK has an effective approach to storytelling. It switches between a few character viewpoints, but the focus is mostly on 15-year-old April Cooper, Quentin Garrison, and Robin Diamond. Any other point of view comes in exactly when needed and keeps the story flowing. I was particularly impressed April Cooper's narrative which is told through letters to her future child. They're shorter than regular chapters and give the perfect insight to a character we only hear about in the present of the novel.

I so wish there could have been more with Quentin. His story offers a unique view we don't often see - how murder affects family members of the victim, even at some remove. After his mother's little sister was killed by April Cooper, she became more involved than she wanted or even knew. Her reaction turned Quentin into a person he never wanted to be and his struggle to understand and accept that deserved more development.

Robin brings a roaring energy to the story. Whether she realizes it or not, she has a keen inquisitive mind. When her parents are attacked, she immediately starts seeing clues as to what happened, and how they're connected to Quentin. She has no idea why this is all happening now and she's not sure if she wants to keep investigating if it means damaging her normal life, but she also has a strong sense of justice that pushes her to keep going.

NEVER LOOK BACK also gives a glimpse into how the media can shape the way events are seen for better or worse. When you know what is going on from the characters, reading how the media are telling the story creates a tension that lasts throughout. If the media is lying, how will the characters get at the truth? Part of what makes this a page turner is that tension, and the wonder of all is that Gaylin can make it all come together in the final chapters.

This was near impossible to put down. Well-written characters with a single connection to each other plus a fast and well-paced narrative make for a fantastic thriller. You may NEVER LOOK BACK, but you will want to read again.

Keshena Hanson recently earned a degree in English from University of Wisconsin - Green Bay, and was published in the University's Sheepshead Review. Her love for mystery started with Blue's Clues, and now she reads any mystery she can get her hands on.

Reviewed by Keshena Hanson, August 2019

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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