Monday, January 14, 2013

The One I Left Behind

The One I Left Behind
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; 
Original edition (January 2, 2013)
ISBN-10: 006212255X
ISBN-13: 978-0062122551

Book Description:
Reggie has told almost no one about the summer of 1985.

She was thirteen, awkward, her only friends the school outcasts -- Charlie, the shy son of a local detective, and Tara, a goth kid who harbors a dark secret. That summer a serial killer known as Neptune began abducting women in their sleepy Connecticut suburb and leaving their severed hands on the steps of the police department. Exactly five days later, the women’s bodies are found. When Reggie’s mother, Vera -- an ex-model with many “boyfriends” and a thirst for gin -- disappears and her hand shows up at the police station, Reggie, Charlie and Tara plunge into a seedy world of dive bars and pay-by-the-hour motels trying to find her. But after five days, there’s no body, and the murders stop. Both Vera and Neptune seem to have vanished.

Twenty-five years later, Reggie is an award-winning architect with a seemingly perfect --if a bit lonely -- life when she learns that Vera has turned up alive in a homeless shelter. Vera is confused, speaking in riddles and nursery rhymes, unable (or unwilling) to explain where she’s been all these years. It’s up to Reggie to sift through the clues in her own past, unravel her mother’s riddles, and find Neptune before he kills again.

Idgie Says:
This story has a lot of layers that slowly build to a fully fleshed out horror. 

Reggie has a mother who cares more for drink and men than her daughter.  They live with a surrogate mother - her aunt - who make sure there's food and a roof but lacks any maternal instinct.  There's also the fact that Reggie's mother has never named her father and most assume she doesn't actually know herself.

Reggie has all of this going against her sense of security, when to top it off, her mother appears to be abducted by a serial killer who's terrorizing the town.  But neither her mother nor the killer is ever found.

When suddenly Mom shows up at a hospital, sent there from the homeless shelter, completely gone in the mind, Reggie has to deal with a woman coming back into her life who she's always felt betrayed her in many ways.  To top it off, it looks like the killer might also be around.  

This story contains nice little bits of supernatural suspense and mystery intertwined with a serial killer crime story.  Love, lust and all that goes with it shows up to join the crowd.  Much more a psychological thriller than a gorefest of killing.



The first thing she does when she wakes up is check her hands. She doesn’t know how long she’s been out. Hours? Days? She’s on her back, blindfolded, arms up above her head like a diver, bound to a metal pipe. Her hands are duct taped together at the wrist -- but they’re both still there.

Thank you, thank you, thank Jesus, sweet, sweet Mother Mary, both her hands are there. She wiggles her fingers and remembers a song her mother used to sing:

Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin?
Here I am, Here I am,
How are you today, Sir,
Very well, I thank you,
Run away, Run away.

Her ankles are bound together tightly – more duct tape;her feet are full of pins and needles.

She hears Neptune breathing and it sounds almost mechanical, the rasping rhythm of it: in, out, in, out. Chug, chug, puff, puff. I think I can, I think I can.

Neptune takes off the blindfold and the light hurts her eyes. All she sees is a dark silhouette above her and it’s not Neptune’s face she sees inside it, but all faces: her mother’s, her father’s, Luke the baker from the donut shop, her high school boyfriend who never touched her, but liked to jerk off while she watched. She sees the stained glass face of Jesus, the eyes of the woman with no legs who used to beg for money outside of Denny’s during the breakfast rush. All these faces are spinning like a top on Neptune’s head and she has to close her eyes because if she looks too long, she’ll get dizzy and throw up.

Neptune smiles down at her, teeth bright as a crescent moon.

She tries to turn her head, but her neck aches from their struggle earlier, and she can only move a fraction of an inch before the pain brings her to a screeching halt. They seem to be in some sort of warehouse. Cold cement floor. Curved metal walls laced with electrical conduit. Boxes everywhere. Old machinery. The place smells like a country fair -- rotten fruit, grease, burned sugar, hay.

“It didn’t need to be this way,” Neptune says, head shaking, clicking tongue against teeth, scolding.

Neptune walks around her in a circle, whistling. It’s almost a dance, with a little spring in each step, a little skip. Neptune’s shoes are cheap imitation leather, scratched to shit, the tread worn smooth helping them glide across the floor. All at once, Neptune freezes, eyeing her a moment longer, then quits whistling, turns and walks away. Footsteps echo on the cement floor. The door closes with a heavy wooden thud. A bolt slides closed, a lock is snapped.

Gone. For now.

The tools are all laid out on a tray nearby: clamps, rubber tourniquet, scalpel, small saw, propane torch, metal trowel, rolls of gauze, thick surgical pads, heavy white tape. Neptune’s left these things where she can see them. It’s all part of the game.

Son of a bitch. Son of a bitch. Son a bitch.

Stop, she tells herself. Don’t panic. Think.

Tomorrow morning, another hand will show up inside a milk carton on the steps of the police station. Only this time, it will be her hand. She looks at the saw, swallows hard, and closes her eyes.

Think, damn it.

She struggles with the tape around her wrists, but it’s no good.

She opens her eyes and they go back to the tools, the bandages, the saw with its row of tiny silver teeth.

She hears a moan to her left. Slowly, like an arthritic old woman, she turns her head so that her left cheek rests on the cool, damp floor.

“You!” she says, surprised but relieved.

The woman is taped to a cast iron pipe on the opposite side of the warehouse. “I can get us out of this,” she promises. The woman lifts her head, opens her swollen eyes.
The woman laughs, her split lip opening up, covering her chin with blood. “We’re both dead, Dufrane,” she says, her voice small and crackling, a fire that can’t get started.

Reviewed by Idgie. If you would like to have the Dew review a book, please contact me at