Book Review- What Remains of Me

Friday, 20 January 2017
Title: What Remains of Me
Author: Alison Gaylin
Published: Feb 23rd 2016
Pages: 384
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 4/5

Nobody’s perfect. Everybody’s got a drawer somewhere with something hidden in it.
On June 28, 1980—the hottest night of the year—Kelly Michelle Lund shoots and kills Oscar-nominated director John McFadden at a party in his home. . . . And instantly becomes a media sensation, her chilling smile fodder for national nightmares. For years, speculation swirls over the enigmatic seventeen-year-old’s motives, information she’s refused to share. Convicted of the murder, she loses her youth and her freedom—but keeps her secrets to herself.
Thirty years later—and five years after her release from prison—the past has come back to haunt Kelly. Her father-in-law, movie legend Sterling Marshall, is found in a pool of blood in his home in the Hollywood Hills—dead from a shot to the head, just like his old friend John McFadden.
Once again, Kelly is suspected of the high profile murder. But this time, she’s got some unexpected allies who believe she’s innocent—of both killings—and want to help her clear her name. But is she?
Written with masterful precision and control, What Remains of Me brilliantly moves forward and back in time, playing out the murders side by side—interweaving subtle connections and peeling away layers of events to reveal the shocking truth. -Goodreads

I received this novel from Net Galley in return for an honest review.

This is a thriller set in Hollywood about a teenager called Kelly who is sent to prison for killing director John McFadden. The novel begins when Kelly has been out of prison for 5 years when her father-in-law (movie legend Sterling Marshall) is killed in the same was as McFadden, and Kelly is a prime suspect.
Gaylin cleverly uses dual timelines in this novel. We follow Kelly's POV when she is out of prison, and we also follow her when she is 17, leading up to the first murder. Reading this we have to piece together what happened as we go, flipping between the present and the past to try to figure what exactly happened and how the pieces all fit together. 
I must admit that I found this read quite slow to begin with, and it was heading towards a 3 star rating, but the second half saved the rating! I struggled to get interested in any of the characters, it was all a bit boring. I actually put the book down and only picked it up again because I had received it to review. 
However I'm really glad I picked the novel back up, the novel really picks up in the second half. The mystery aspect of the novel is very well done, I was never sure whether Kelly killed either of the men, and this ambiguity really added to my enjoyment. It meant I couldn't really trust any of the characters, and the author made you doubt Kelly's voice too, so you were never sure exactly what the facts were!
The author makes good use of news articles and TMZ reports placed sporadically throughout the novel. This pause in the narrative allowed a pause in the story, and allowed the author to show us what the public's view of the murders and Kelly was. This added to the mystery and confusion surrounding what happened, and just gave me more questions about the characters and what the truth was.
Kelly is an unusual and fascinating main character. As a teen, her journey from quiet shy awkward teenage girl to confident drug taking rebel was very interesting to read about. Her life outside of prison, with her husband is just as interesting, although completely different. The insight into the way the Press and the public view her, and her vilification by them because she didn't act a certain way when arrested, was well written by Gatlin. This was a character that I really enjoyed getting to know and reading about. That's not to say that she was likeable, she was a hard and intense character to read about, but that didn't stop me enjoying her, and feeling some sympathy towards her. 
The supporting characters are well done too. Kelly's childhood/adolescent friends are drug taking party goers, children of famous names in Hollywood. Kelly is a lamb among wolves, she is the innocent one that soon finds herself fully involved in the madness of the celebrity children's lives. There is also some fairly problematic parents, all tied to Hollywood somehow, all with problems and vices and pretty poor parenting skills. 
With the addition of a detective with a bias towards Kelly, a group of people living in a commune and Kelly's neighbour who likes to sculpt with chainsaws, Gaylin has created a wide ranging and fascinating collection of characters that all keep the story moving, and are interesting to read about.
I personally would have liked to have read something about Kelly's time in prison, she sat on a lot of information for a long time. She kept many secrets in prison, it would've been interesting to see how she dealt with them. However this is a minor gripe!
Overall I enjoyed this novel. It's a thriller filled with twists and red-herrings, and some very intriguing characters, and if you like mystery thrillers I would give this novel a try!


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