At the finish of this story there are some notes by the author in which he attempts to explain difficulties he experienced in the initial writing of "Those we left behind" In particular the story was originally intended for DI Jack Lennon but after some soul searching and some rewriting the reader was introduced to DCI Serena Flanagan....and what a brilliant accomplishment that has proved to be.
You see, on the one level, we have a murder from some years ago and two disturbed brothers Thomas and Ciaran Devine. Ciaran has been incarcerated in a young offenders prison but did he actually commit the murder or is there a more sinister and evil side to Thomas? This story is actually secondary to the emotional and turbulent life of Serena Flanagan.
At the very beginning we learn that Flanagan has returned to duty after an operation; a lumpectomy. As the story proceeds the question posed is one of her capability against the background of the personal trauma just experienced. I, as a male reader, can only imagine the insecurities that must surely surround this relatively young and career driven police woman. At the bottom of this dilemma is the question that seems to haunt Serena....does my husband Alistair still want me and find my attractive?....."You know, you don't have to touch me there. I can keep my top on. You can......She watched as Alistair blinked, his mouth moving, seeking the words to reflect his heart. He sighed as his desire to tell her the truth was defeated by his quiet nature. In the end, he said, "I'm tired, love. Let's get some sleep." He rolled over his back to her, and pulled the duvet up to his chin. "It's just a bit of scarring", Flanagan said, "hardly anything at all." He stayed silent. "I'm not some disfigured monster, for Christ's sake."
Ciaran has now been released and once again DCI Flanagan, with the prompting of his probation officer, has become involved as fresh fears and evidence become apparent. Ciaran has never known or experienced in his short life any type of love or affection. He is now confronted with a sympathetic attractive policewoman facing her own emotional battle and sadness within the family unit. I could almost feel the agony that Stuart Neville, so expertly portrayed, as these two damaged individuals found comfort in the presence of each other.....where exactly was he going with this storyline?
This is a brilliant, emotional, character driven thriller of the highest order. I so much want Flanagan to be happy and yet her insecurities and problems are what make Those We Left Behind a thriller not to be missed. Highly Recommended!