ARC Review: The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon

*advanced review copy provided by publisher and edelweis*

Regina’s Rating: 3.5 stars/Grade B+


The summer of 1985 changed Reggie’s life. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school’s outcasts-Charlie, the local detective’s son, and Tara, a goth kid who has a mental hold over Reggie and harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer called Neptune begins kidnapping women. He leaves their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, displays their bodies around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera-an ex-model with many “boyfriends” and a thirst for gin-the most, Vera’s hand is found on the steps. But after five days, there’s no body and Neptune disappears.Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind after that horrific summer, Reggie doesn’t trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when she gets a call from a homeless shelter saying that her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.

With her signature style, Jennifer McMahon portrays the dark side of adolescent friendship and introduces characters who haunt the imagination, along with a disturbing web of secrets, betrayals, and murder.


This book had me guessing and uncomfortable (in that delicious way only books can do to you) from the very beginning. The story of a serial killer’s murders during the summer of 1985 creates a backdrop for this book.  The One I Left Behind is told from “Reggie’s” (Regina)’s first person point of view. During the course of the story, the reader meets two Reggies: Reggie as a 13 year old girl in 1985 (by the way this Regina was also 13 in 1985) and through Reggie’s point of view 25 years later in 2010 as a 38 year old woman. Occasionally interspersed are very short chapters from a crime fiction novel that details key facts about the serial killer’s rampage in 1985.  Rather than being disjointed, this method of storytelling effectively allows the reader to learn about the characters and what happened in 1985 first hand.

This story would make a great movie. Beautiful wannabe actress who is also a single mother, contentious relationship between sisters, small town setting, lots of secrets and painful pasts, a number of spurned men, terror at which woman is next and detailed descriptions of architecture.

At its core, this novel is a who-done-it but nestled around this core is a story of a young girl, growing up with an unconventional mother and absent father. She struggles as a teen to figure out who she is and as an adult to figure out who she should be. While the characters alternate between the young teen versions of the characters and the present adult characters, this is an adult novel. And bonus points for The One Left Behind – there may be some guessing at who the murderer may be there is no detailed recitation of crime scenes and there is no methodical ongoing search. The story simply unfolds.

The One Left Behind is entertaining and I could not put it down for the last 20%. Even better – I didn’t know who the killer was. If you enjoy mysteries with heavy emotional and character storylines and no police procedure then The One Left Behind may be the book for you.


Rating:  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

© 2013 – 2014, Badass Book Reviews. All rights reserved.