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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

What Remains

Narrators: Gabra Zackman,

Peter Ganim

ISBN: 979-8200872527

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

Publication Date: 06/13/2022

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars (ARC)

She saved his life. Now he‘ll never let her go.

Detective Elise Sutton is drawn to cold cases. Each crime is a puzzle to solve, pulled from the past. Elise looks for cracks in the surface and has become an expert on how murderers slip up and give themselves away. She has dedicated her life to creating a sense of order, at work with her ex-marine partner; at home with her husband and two young daughters; and within, battling her own demons. Elise has everything under control, until one afternoon, when she walks into a department store and is forced to make a terrible choice: to save one life, she will have to take another.

Elise is hailed as a hero, but she doesn’t feel like one. Steeped in guilt, and on a leave of absence from work, she’s numb, even to her husband and daughters, until she connects with Wade Austin, the tall man whose life she saved. But Elise soon realizes that he isn’t who he says he is. In fact, Wade Austin isn’t even his real name. The tall man is a ghost, one who will set off a terrifying game of cat and mouse, threatening Elise and the people she loves most.

My Review

A long-time fan of author Wendy Walker, (my 7th of her books), returns following Don't Look for Me with her latest crime thriller, WHAT REMAINS. A kick-off to her new Detective Elise Sutton series—she saves a life and then becomes caught up in a dangerous game of cat and mouse.

As the book opens, Elsie is in a department store, Nichols Depot buying pink towels for her daughters when she hears two pops. She thinks she hears gunshots. Again two pops.

Her partner Rowan (former marine) is circling the parking lot because she said she would not be long. He has his demons.

She has spent 12 years in the department, and this is the first time she has drawn a weapon in the outside world. Her four years on active patrol had been quiet, and for the last 8, she has worked cold cases. (wow, this is dangerous)!

She has to balance the loved ones missing and dead, the empathy and implications of horrific crime with everyday life. She has never sought the thrill of the chase or a crime unfolding before her eyes.

Now she is here, ill-equipped for what she knows is happening.

She is married to Mitch (who was unfaithful to her 4 yrs. ago), with two daughters, Fran and Amy. She is a cop. One that is being tested. Rowan hears everything on her microphone. He is coming in.

She has a second to react. A shooter is pointing a gun. There is another guy he is pointing to. She yells police officer drop your weapon. The other man moves toward the dressing room, and the gun is aimed at him, and moves with him.

She aims and pulls the trigger. Her life is forever changed. Guilt-ridden, she will worry if she did the right thing. She becomes obsessed with knowing what happened and why? Was he going to kill the other guy? Did the two guys know one another? Did she shoot the wrong guy?

What about the pregnant woman in the dressing room and Wade's behavior she learns of later?

Elsie studied forensics because she was drawn to the order it created—solving puzzles and mysteries. She taught at the local college classes on evidence and crime scenes.

The novel alternates between the shooting, Elsie, and the guy she saved, now her stalker and worst nightmare, and the Kill room.

The kill room is about 36 miles from the department store in a rural area with thousands of acres of woodland in state preservation. No public utilities and a trail to a lookout. Available to licensed hunters for two weeks during the fall to reduce the deep population.

Now there is a body. Two hunters discover the remains. Three years earlier, a man was murdered at the same shelter. The press dubbed it the Kill Room, where hunters take their kill to clean and dress.

This shelter had a wood-burning stove, a well, and a hand pump in the main room. It also had a large animal cremation oven in the basement, which the media focused on when the body was found.

We learn about bones, cremation, DNA, teeth, chemical composition, and the CODIS database. We also learn about how to commit murder and get away with it.

Mind-bending, alternating parts following Elise, Guy 404 (the victim she saved who says he is Wade Austin, but not his real name), now her stalker, and Clay Lucas with mental problems, who found the gun—the shooter.

Told from dual perspectives in alternating chapters, Wade (404) and Elsie. Wade is always one step ahead of her, and she learns he has taken her classes, so he knows how to get around cops and the law.

Detective Elise Sutton is very complex and not a normal cop. She is, at times unhinged, impulsive, and has fears and weaknesses.

The book started with a bang, and then with the other Kill Room, and the back-and-forth cat and mouse became a little drawn out and repetitive. I did not connect with Elise as a character at all. She seems withdrawn and out there. I cannot put my finger on it, never quite read anything this bazaar.

While I enjoy Wendy's books immensely (an excellent writer, especially the literary suspense) and psychological fiction (her strengths), I was honestly not wild about WHAT REMAINS.

This one does not have the normal literary elements I find appealing and drawn to with her past novels. This is more of a wacky crime suspense. Even though Elise is not experienced with street smarts, her strengths are forensics, planning, and teaching. She is more behind the scenes solving cases.

At times I thought she was as obsessed as the stalker, trying to beat him at his own game. I'm not sure I like this series; however, because this is Wendy Walker, I will try the next one and see if it is different. I had to skip through many parts to get to the end.

You are unsure how the two storylines connect, but with all the crazies, you anticipate where the showdown will occur. I found it drawn out and did not hold my interest. I had high expectations and think I was a bit disappointed. At the same time, this is still four stars for me, just not my usual WW 5 stars. I am sure it will appeal to a certain audience.

If this is your first book by Wendy, you may enjoy it; however, I am spoiled by her writing with her previous six books, so I am comparing it. I am getting a little picky since this is my 183rd book YTD (mostly thrillers), and this is only June 12th, not quite mid-year.

A bit of a cautionary tale/trigger about guns, violence, mental health, and why killers watch shows and read and learn about how to kill. (not a fan). Guns in the wrong hands are readily available for people with mental illness, kids, violent people, or those high on drugs—which is not a good thing in our society of gun control. It must be stopped. Elsie does not make you feel very safe either as a cop.

Thanks to #BlackstonePublishing for an ARC via #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This is a different publisher, so may be the difference.

Pub Date: June 13, 2023

My Rating: 4 Stars

June 2023 Must-Read Books List

Other WW books I have read or listened to:


Hold Your Breath 4 Stars


“‘What would you do?’ asks this searing thriller in its opening pages. And then, just a few chapters later, another question, more unnerving: ‘What would you do now?’ Most novels would’ve quit by this point, but most novels aren’t written by Wendy Walker, whose earlier stories of psychological suspense — humane, inquisitive, and sinister, often in the same sentence — showcased a rare talent. In WHAT REMAINS, Walker smashes that showcase to rubble. I can’t recall the last time a thriller kept me so alert, as though the muzzle of a gun were pressed to my temple. While the novel rotates through assorted genres (cop drama, psychological suspense, stalker scares — each meticulously evoked and arranged), this is from beginning to end absolutely splendid storytelling, a book to entertain, to immerse, and to challenge.”

—AJ Finn, New York Times Bestselling author of The Woman in the Window

“WHAT REMAINS starts with a dilemma and develops into a terrifying ordeal for Detective Elise Sutton as she tries to untangle a deadly web of lies and deceit. Finely crafted characters, great plotting and so much tension you’ll have trouble catching your breath. This is Wendy Walker at her best!”

—BA Paris, New York Times Bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors

“In addition to being a heart-pounding page turner, Wendy Walker’s WHAT REMAINS is an exploration of love and fidelity and of the secrets that bind us and tear us apart. The engine that keeps us riveted is not simply the masterful plot but our empathy for Walker’s complex characters as they test the fragility of the ties that tether them to not only the ones they love but to their own identities. A gorgeous and compelling emotional thriller.”

—Jean Kwok, New York Times Bestselling author of Finding Sylvie Lee

“Perfectly plotted and beautifully written, I was gripped from the first page.”

—Alice Feeney, New York Times Bestselling author of Daisy Darker

“A twisted game of obsession and secrets, WHAT REMAINS is the story of detective Elise Sutton who finds herself face to face with a mass shooter. What follows is the unraveling of trauma – not just detective Sutton’s, but the others in the store that day. However, one of the shoppers wasn’t who he claimed to be and begins a dangerous cat-and-mouse game that draws Detective Sutton away from those she trusts the most. WHAT REMAINS starts with a bang – literally – and doesn’t let you go until the final, exquisite resolution. This book is Wendy Walker at her best!”

—Julie Clark, New York Times Bestselling author of The Lies I Tell

“I couldn’t put this book down once I started. Thoroughly enjoyable from the first page to the shocking conclusion, Wendy Walker’s WHAT REMAINS is an addictive, immersive, propulsive thriller. Not only is Walker at the top of her game, she is absolutely one of the genre’s best.”

—Jennifer Hillier, USA Today Bestselling author of Things We Do In the Dark

“Incredibly tense, utterly authentic, and endlessly intriguing – I dare you to put this book down.”

—Catherine Ryan Howard, International Bestselling author of 56 Days

About the Author

Wendy Walker is the author of the psychological suspense novels All Is Not Forgotten, Emma In the Night, The Night Before, Don’t Look For Me and American Girl. Her novels have been translated into 23 foreign languages, topped bestseller lists both nationally and abroad, and have been optioned for both television and film.

Wendy holds degrees from Brown University and Georgetown Law School, and has worked in finance and several areas of the law. As a former family law attorney with training in child advocacy, Wendy draws from her knowledge of trauma and psychology to write compelling and complex characters and stories. WEBSITE







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