Saturday, 3 December 2016

Review ~ What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin


Book Description:

The USA Today bestselling author of the Brenna Spector series returns with her most ambitious book to date, a spellbinding novel of psychological suspense, set in the glamorous, wealthy world of Hollywood—a darkly imaginative and atmospheric tale of revenge and betrayal, presumed guilt and innocence lost, dirty secrets and family ties reminiscent of the bestsellers of Laura Lippman, Gillian Flynn, and Harlan Coben.

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.

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Our Review:

Reviewed by Donna ~ 4 stars



“The world’s a stage, Little Miss, but very few of us get to write our own roles.”


This is one of those books where you have to have your wits about you. There is a lot to comprehend and digest, a lot of clues and information disguised cleverly in contrived sentences where the author knows exactly what she is doing, but that is the beauty of a thriller and this author definitely delivered.

Hollywood is notoriously full of influential people, holed up in their multi-million dollar houses, cavorting around with god knows who and who knows where. Where fame and fortune is paramount to social acceptance and it is definitely not what you know but who you know. Alison Gaylin portrays this perfectly as the children of the Hollywood glitterati get caught up in the parties, booze and drugs that leads to questionable decisions and actions.

This book is told through the voice of Kelly Michelle Lund, a convicted murderer that has since been released from prison. The time line flits back from past to present as the past details the events leading up to the then seventeen-year-old girl that committed the most heinous crime, the murder of famous movie director, John McFadden. One where she showed no remorse and where the paps caught a smirk for which she will forever be known… “The Mona Lisa Death Smile” was forever immortalised in picture and print.


“It isn’t what you do that makes you lose people…it’s what they think you’ve done.”


The present is Kelly stuck in a seemingly loveless marriage, holed up permanently as she battles to shed the stigma that surrounds her even after all this time. When her father in law, Sterling Marshall turns up dead in similar circumstances to his best friend, John McFadden all eyes once again turn to the “Mona Lisa” murderer and Kelly once again finds herself thrust into the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The media have already tried her and found her guilty, the police are hot on their tails trying to prove it.

For me Kelly was totally misunderstood and for once I actually found myself rooting for the murderer. With the flashbacks to the past I found myself constantly contradicting myself and reading in between the lines as my common sense constantly picked at what I was reading. I found myself consciously picking apart things and found myself questioning the validity of her first conviction. This book is full of red herrings, ones that I am now rather fond of, because it was this that made this unputdownable.

Hollywood is born and raised on secrets, everyone has them, everyone uses them to their advantage but some are born from love and are taken to the grave. Kelly was a young girl striving for acceptance, for a sense of belonging to someone. To be someone’s friend, confidante and lover. This pushed her into circles her mother warned her about and ones that had ultimately taken the life of her sister, but Kelly pushed on for that one thing she had always wanted, yet ultimately cost her…her freedom.

Alison Gaylin cleverly creates one hell of a tangled web and she is the spider surreptitiously awaiting you to fall victim to her trap. With twists and turns aplenty this story will give you whiplash and will definitely have your grey matter working at the rate of knots. For me, I couldn’t put this down, I was frantic to know not only who had killed her father in law but also how she came to be convicted of murder the first time.  Nothing is ever as it seems. I loved this book and I cannot wait to read more from this author. My current drive in the crime thriller genre shows no sign of abating.

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