On a hot summer night in 1980 Kelly Lund killed John McFadden, a famous film director. Kelly is imprisoned for the crime at aged just seventeen, and she does her time. Thirty years later, five years after Kelly’s release from prison, her father-in-law, Sterling Marshall, a movie star, is murdered. In 1980 following her appearance in court she was pictured with a half-smile on her face, that picture has accompanied every story written about Kelly and John McFadden ever since, it looks like it may need another airing now.
The book uses the setting of Hollywood itself to underpin a book which shows us the events of 1980 in flashback. It is a tale of a poor kid mixing with the elite and not fitting in. at school not helped by the fact that Kelly had a sister who committed suicide after getting in with the rich and famous and her mother is terrified that Kelly will follow in her footsteps. That doesn’t seem likely at first with Kelly being of a far quieter nature, but then Bellamy choses her to be her friend and soon she is mixing with her famous friends. We get to see the progression where Kelly doesn’t really feel like she belongs; she lives in Hollywood because her father was a stunt man and her mother a make-up artist, a life where the huge houses and free access to drink and drugs has never been part of her world, but once she teams up with Bellamy, it is.
In 2010 the police don’t immediately swoop in on Kelly Lund their approach being far more stealthy, which is just as well because she has a backer, someone who doesn’t believe she is guilty of the latest murder and will fight to prove it. Her husband Shane is welcomed back into the family bosom, his marriage to Kelly having caused a little bit of consternation, and they are all pointing the finger at the former killer.
Kelly Lund was a bit of an enigma throughout this book, understandably so as part of the mystery is whether she is a murderer or not, but for me, this device meant that it was quite hard to connect with her, and perhaps, not being interested in being rich or famous myself, I wasn’t as impressed by the Hollywood lifestyle as Kelly was. On her release from prison Kelly isn’t that impressed either and she lives a quiet life with her husband Shane some distance away from the scene of the first crime, but the links, however weak, are still there.
This book had many of the individual elements that make for a good read, a strong, well-thought out plot, an interesting protagonist, a whole boxful of secrets and a heap of red-herrings, but for me, it just didn’t culminate in the type of absorbing read I expected. This wasn’t helped by the slow start, the numerous cruel characters and the absence of any real information about what it was that meant that Kelly was convicted of the first murder. It was just all a little too elusive for my tastes. For all that the events that led to both deaths, once revealed meant that a lot of the earlier confusion was cleared up, ideal for readers who enjoy a slow burn and are more patient than me at sitting it out until the conclusion.
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of What Remains of Me from the publishers Random House UK, this review is my unbiased thanks to them.