Published by William Morrow on July 2, 2019
Source: the publisher
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From the Edgar Award-winning author of If I Die Tonight
Reminiscent of the bestsellers of Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben—with a Serial-esque podcast twist—an absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense from the author of the highly acclaimed and Edgar Award-nominated What Remains of Me and the USA Today bestselling and Shamus Award-winning Brenna Spector series.
For thirteen days in 1976, teenage murderers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy terrorized Southern California’s Inland Empire, killing a dozen victims before perishing themselves in a fire… or did they? More than 40 years later, twentysomething podcast producer Quentin Garrison blames his troubled upbringing on the murders. And after a shocking message from a source, he has reason to believe April Cooper may still be alive. Meanwhile, New York City film columnist Robin Diamond is coping with rising doubts about her husband and terrifying threats from internet trolls. But that’s nothing compared to the outrageous phone call she gets from Quentin… and a brutal home invasion that makes her question everything she ever believed in. Is Robin’s beloved mother a mass murderer? Is there anyone she can trust?
Told through the eyes of those destroyed by the Inland Empire Killings—including Robin, Quentin, and a fifteen-year-old April Cooper—Never Look Back asks the question:
How well do we really know our parents, our partners—and ourselves?
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin opens with letter 15-year-old April Cooper has written to her future child, and it pulled me in immediately. While this first letter is a written assignment for one of April’s ninth grade classes, she continues writing these letters and this becomes the basis for her POV throughout the story. This was such a catchy hook and it reminded me of the prologue of Ms. Gaylin’s last book If I Die Tonight, which was a Facebook post containing what appeared to be a suicide note that had collected a ton of likes. I absolutely loved If I Die Tonight, so when this newest book came in the mail, I squealed. I’ve become such a huge fan of Ms. Gaylin.
Never Look Back is set in present-day, but takes a look at a set of teen serial killers from the 1970’s. The couple, Gabriel LeRoy and April Cooper, killed multiple people over several days and then were killed a fire before they could be brought to justice-supposedly. But new evidence has surfaced and come into the possession of a podcaster that suggests April Cooper is indeed alive-around forty years later!-and living life under a completely different identity. The podcaster starts his own investigation, but runs into a ton of trouble at nearly every step.
I’ve read stories set around or featuring podcasts before (although not very many!) and the thing that I liked about this one most is that the podcast isn’t really the focal point-the mystery is. The fact that the character hosts the podcast is what carries the weight in the story, and also that fact is what pushes him to investigate in the first place. Sidenote: the host, Quentin Garrish, has an interesting connection to the case, which makes his quest for this investigative knowledge personal.
Robin Diamond is the daughter of the woman that may be April Cooper, and man-oh-man, she really gets thrown into this investigation without any warning. When the crazy things start happening, it’s almost like she is constantly trying to catch up to the hits as they happen. Between Robin’s POV and Quentin’s, I enjoyed the difference in their personalities. There is a nuance there that I didn’t necessarily realize at the beginning of the story, but as the chapters begin to pass, I began picking up on it. One character’s personality felt almost frenzied and nervous; the other character felt sort of out of breath and confused on the pages. At least, that’s how I felt to me when I was reading the different POV’s. I’m not entirely sure if I’m accurately describing how Ms. Gaylin intended to portray these characters, but the important thing is that I felt this subtle difference in them, because as the story progressed, it became obvious that there was indeed something different about them.
April Cooper’s POV’s were my favorites, though. She mostly wrote her letters while she was out with Gabriel, on the road, doing…the things that she was doing. The letters are so introspective and three-dimensional, even in their brevity, that it made me wonder about other real-life couples like Gabriel and April-what more is there than we hear on the news? Their thoughts, their reasons, their motivations? No spoilers here, but I found her the most complex and interesting character by far. Not the most “good” character, but the most interesting. I would love to hear more from April, actually.
Overall, I wasn’t at all surprised at how great this story is, but I’m excited that I loved it so much. I think there was some feeling of predictability at the beginning, but as I encountered the twists and turns around every corner, I realized that perhaps the story wasn’t quite as predictable as I initially thought. I completely enjoyed trying to investigate this one myself as I read. Just a really fun, really good story with plenty of suspense and thrill. It really got into my head and I loved that a ton.
This would be a really fun book club read or buddy read!