Those We Left Behind
by Stuart Neville
Cover Artist: Photo by Micael NussBaume / Shutterstock
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781616956363
Date: 22 September 2015 List Price $27.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /
Stuart Neville's Those We Left Behind is a superb psychological thriller based on sibling abuse. It is the fifth installment in a unique, oftentimes bizarre, series involving the criminal underworld of Belfast, Ireland. In Neville's latest novel, Detective Inspector Jack Lennon has been replaced as the protagonist. Serena Flanagan, who was introduced in The Final Silence, will now be the one whose life is in danger.
Serena is a strong, intelligent woman who is very career driven. She is also married with two young children. As though her career and raising a family isn't stressful enough, she is recovering from breast cancer. She has joined a support group. Further complicating her life is a friend, Penny Walker, who informs her that her breast cancer has returned with a vengeance. That very evening, Penny is found dead by suffocation and her husband dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Serena finds this murder-suicide extremely suspicious.
From the novel's onset, readers soon learn that Thomas has a perverse hold over his younger brother, Ciaran. At one point, as they lay together on the bed, spooning and caressing, I nearly believed they were lovers, but the novel never depicts that their relationship is ever sexual. Thomas is only two years older than Ciaran. Their age difference is not much. Nevertheless, the relationship between the Devines is an abusive one.
Ciaran is helpless without Thomas. He can't do anything without consulting his brother, without first obtaining his approval. He is trapped. Readers will feel much sorrow for Ciaran. I've read many novels where a parent or spouse has exercised a dangerous control over other members of their family. This is the first one I've read that dealt with sibling abuse: one child abusing another. Unfortunately, the Devines are also orphans, having been shuffled among numerous foster families.
Those We Left Behind is very different from the other novels in the series. It doesn't involve the supernatural, it doesn't have vicious serial killers, and it doesn't involve human trafficking. Neither does it have a high body count. It is not a shoot-'em-up crime drama. It is, however, a very unsettling, very disturbing, very emotional psychological thriller. Beatings, vandalism, and an occasional corpse, however, do help maintain a fast pacing. Depending upon their preferences, some readers may think Those We Left Behind is the best in the series. Nevertheless, I don't want to be left behind when Stuart Neville's next novel is published.