Richard and Judy Review: Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

Richard and Judy Review: Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

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"Crackling with suspense, heartache, and love, Those We Left Behind is one of the reads of the summer."

Richard’s review

DCI Serena Flanagan was a detective sergeant seven years ago, when she took Ciaran Devine’s confession. He made it to her after she spent days treating him with the utmost gentleness, a kindness he has never forgotten. Not a day has passed since when his thoughts haven’t turned towards her.

Now she’s back at work after breast cancer surgery. But the past is about to come back to haunt her. A probation officer, Paula Cunningham, has been given the delicate task of helping prepare Ciaran for life on the outside again. But the more she talks to the 19-year-old, the more she suspects that there was far, far more to this case than the police thought. Ciaran’s confession saved Thomas from a much longer sentence and Cunningham realises what a powerful hold the older boy has over his vulnerable sibling.

She takes her concerns to Flanagan. The entire situation is deeply charged and complex; the foster mother is dead, by her own hand. A foster brother is emotionally knotted and conflicted. How can the DCI get to the bottom of what really happened so many years ago?

Stuart Neville has produced an exceptionally well-written thriller here and Serena Flanagan is a beautifully crafted central character, tough and warm and insightful. You want to read more about her and it would be surprising if she does not become a series character in future novels.

Crackling with suspense, heartache, and love, Those We Left Behind is one of the reads of the summer.

"…nothing in Stuart Neville’s spine-tingling thriller is what it seems."

Judy’s review

A crime neatly solved, processed, packaged away. The perpetrators jailed after the fullest of confessions to beating a man to death. Consign it to the records and move on. Nothing more to see here.

Except… nothing in Stuart Neville’s spine-tingling thriller is what it seems. Not the confession, not the facts of the case that seven years ago were accepted by police and prosecutors and watching media.

And what a case it was. Two young brothers who beat their foster father to death. We find them in flashback, huddled together on a bed, their hands soaked in blood. The dead man’s body is crumpled in a corner.

The younger brother is terrified, as fists hammer on the front door and the wail of approaching sirens grows louder. Are we going to jail? he asks the older boy, who soothes and comforts him as the forces of law and order and sanity close in around them.

The case sends shock waves across the country, especially when the younger child, 12-year-old Ciaran Dervine, takes chief responsibility for the slaying. The motive is the sordid, upsetting business of his brother being sexually abused by their foster father.

Ciaran’s confession is so all-encompassing that his big brother, Thomas, is treated merely as an accessory and receives a five-year custodial sentence. The younger boy serves seven.

And now he’s coming out.

Press reviews

Here are a selection of the reviews for Those We Left Behind

"Those We Left Behind is a great, brawling ache of a novel. Filled with both prickling suspense and fiercely wrought emotion, it’s a tale of the burdens of family and the weight of the past."

Megan Abbott

"An exceptional talent. Crime fiction doesn’t get much better"

Lee Child

"What makes Stuart Neville so special is that he never forgets the human heart that beats inside the bleakest darkness"

Val McDermid