Stuart Neville is one of the most original and engaging voices in crime fiction, and so when I jetted off to Menorca recently, I was sure to pack a copy of his novel, Those We Left Behind, for guaranteed entertainment whilst chilling on the beach.
Those We Left Behind reintroduces us to the character of DCI Serena Flanagan. Seven years prior, DCI Flanagan, then a Detective Sergeant, caught a murder case that sent shock waves through the nation: 12 year old Ciaran Devine and his brother Thomas are accused of murdering their foster father. After days of earning Ciaran’s trust, he confessed to DCI Flanagan that it was him that committed the horrific murder, meaning his older brother Thomas received a reduced prison sentence. After recovering from an operation, DCI Flanagan returns to work and to the news that Ciaran has been released from prison. However Paula Cunningham, his probation officer, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.
Stuart Neville is exceptionally talented at crafting complex and truly captivating characters. Both Ciaran and Thomas Devine are exquisitely fascinating as is the bond that exists between the brothers. DCI Serena Flanagan, who was first introduced by Neville in The Final Silence, and Paula Cunningham are likewise intriguing creations. Whilst their home lives couldn’t be more different, they are both strong females, dedicated to their jobs, however they are both flawed and incredibly human.
In addition to superb characters, Neville is a natural storyteller. He excels at revealing certain elements of his tale at the perfect time, keeping you on the edge of your seat but not giving too much away, as a result you still feel the need to know more. Perfectly paced, Those We Left Behind had me devouring pages so that I could reach its conclusion.
Dark and gritty, Those We Left Behind is a layered and provocative novel that is not only a stimulating stand alone tale, but when considered alongside the rest of his body of work, illustrates what an original talent Stuart Neville truly is. I can’t wait to get my hands on So Say The Fallen, Neville’s latest offering, and the sequel to Those We Left Behind, to see what the future holds for the fabulous DCI Serena Flanagan.
Those We Left Behind and the follow up in DCI Flanagan installment, So Say The Fallen, are out now.