By: T.R. Richmond
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: 1/12/2016
My Rating: 4 Stars
In this brilliantly modern novel of love, obsession, and revenge, a professor pieces together the life and mysterious death of a former student—and unearths a shocking revelation about her final days.
On a snowy February morning, the body of twenty-five-year-old journalist Alice Salmon washes up on a riverbank south of London. The sudden, shocking death of this beloved local girl becomes a media sensation, and those who knew her struggle to understand what happened to lively, smart, and savvy Alice Salmon. Was it suicide? A tragic accident? Or…murder?
Professor Jeremy Cooke, known around campus as Old Cookie, is an anthropologist nearing the end of his unremarkable academic career. Alice is his former student, and the object of his unhealthy obsession. After her death, he embarks on a final project—a book documenting Alice’s life through the digital and paper trails that survive her: her diaries, letters, Facebook posts, Tweets, and text messages. He collects news articles by and about her; he transcribes old voicemails; he interviews her friends, family, and boyfriends.
Bit by bit, the real Alice—a complicated and vulnerable young woman—springs fully formed from the pages of Cookie’s book…along with a labyrinth of misunderstandings, lies, and secrets that cast suspicion on everyone in her circle—including Jeremy himself.
A special thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
T. R. Richmond delivers a clever contemporary psychological suspense, WHAT SHE LEFT, centered around social media—love, obsession, and revenge. What happened to Alice Salmon? A mysterious, dark, and intriguing debut.
Alice Salmon is a journalist. Twenty- five years old, her body is found washed up on the riverbank in Southampton, south of London—creating a media frenzy. A music fan, bookworm, and a lover of the outdoors. An accident, a suicide, or murder?
Professor, Jeremy Cooke (Old Cookie), is an anthropologist, ready to retire. Alice was his former student. He is obsessed with documenting her life through her social media (Facebook, Twitter, blog posts, comments, diaries, texts, letters, etc.). He sets out interviewing everyone she came in contact with. A strange bird, he is not well liked. Jeremy has no male friends except Larry, a childhood pen-friend he confides in. However, what is Mr. Cooke hiding? He has his own agenda. His legacy.
A gripping modern suspense, the author combines today’s digital age of social media, where nothing is a secret---and twisted entries and musings of Alice and her friends for a chilling tale, leaving your head spinning. An untold news story unfolds piece by piece.
Not any really likable characters, readers will need to put on their detective hat to try and read between the lines. Allowing readers to see temptations, moral consequences, stalkers, obsessions, and the dark side of cyberspace. Unlike a footprint in the sand, social media and the internet is more permanent. Opinions and judgments are formed. Where privacy is made public and cannot be so easy erased.
On Tumblr we often see “My Blog Speaks For Me.” Yes, we learn a lot about someone, by the pictures they post, even if there is no text or words. We form an opinion about the person behind the images.
“The lie that reveals the truth.” "A lie’s halfway round the world before the truth’s got its boots on." "Being honest isn’t hard; it’s the lying that’s hard." "The lie that reveals the truth." "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” ― Mark Twain
As always, I enjoy learning the inspiration behind the novel—the spark.
"In 2012, journalist Tim Relf (pseudonym T R Richmond) was scrolling through his Twitter feed when he spotted someone musing on what song they would want played at their funeral. Millions of conversations like this play out on Twitter every day, but it struck him that it was actually a hugely intimate detail to share. It got the author thinking: what else could he learn about this person on social media?
That kernel of an idea grew into the plot for What She Left - a ‘whodunnit’ which attempts to untangle the death of a twenty-something woman by piecing together her digital legacy. The story is told through a series of tweets, Facebook posts, emails, playlists and forum comments, along with more traditional letters and diary entries."
I listened to the audio book prior to reading the digital copy. While the audiobook is very well done, Emilia Clarke (Alice Salmon) and Charles Dance ( Professor Cooke), it can get confusing with the back and forth of the dates and times; however; the narration and voices were true to their characters. I enjoyed following up with the digital copy, in order to follow along with the date entries, while bookmarking..
The novel is more about the journey than the destination, for me. Very cool, in real life---as an extension of the book, both leading characters have their own social media presence. Alice-Facebook; Cooke-Tumblr/Twitter.
Leaving us all with a question of what do we really leave behind? Perception. Interpretation. Perspective. We are leaving a trail in this complex internet world in our daily communication and interactions.
At its core, an intriguing well-written mystery and an exploration of human dynamics, grief, and loss with a unique twist. Fans of both literary and psychological suspense will enjoy the entertaining adventure. Look forward to reading more from this talented author and savvy journalist
I enjoyed the author's humor and take on being an author below the review. (so true). My hat goes out to all authors..An author has many shoes to fill. a special thanks to all authors and journalists, for providing booklovers with hours of enjoyment.
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About the Author
T. R. Richmond is an award-wining journalist who's written for local, regional and national newspapers, magazines and websites.
Note from the Author: (loved this). For more
Writers don’t just write – they have to do everything from basic IT to advanced law. And that’s even before working out the benefits of listening to whale music. Here are the professions you’ll need to be proficient at:
3. Shift worker
4. Public speaker
6. Online and social media guru
8. Time-and-motion official
10. PR practitioner
I’m an author and a journalist so this whole debate about how we communicate and relate to each other fascinates me. It’s fertile territory for fiction, too.
Novels have, of course, always played with style and format. There’s nothing new about telling a tale from multiple perspectives or in a non-linear time structure. Similarly, the epistolary format (the name comes from the Greek word ‘epistle’, meaning letter or message) has been widely used. But I wanted to write an epistolary novel for the 21stcentury.
Hopefully at the heart of What She Left there’s a good old-fashioned story and a simple question: What happened to Alice Salmon?
But hopefully, too, readers will have an immersive experience – almost as if they’re following an unfolding news story.
I wanted readers to have the chance to play detective, piecing together Alice’s life and the circumstances surrounding her death from the fragments she left.
The truth is, we all leave a bigger ‘footprint’ nowadays than ever before. This article is one part of mine. By the end of the day, I’ll bet you’ll have added to yours, too.. Follow TR on Twitter