Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

What Remains of Me – Alison Gaylin

Psychological Thriller 3*s
Psychological Thriller

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.

First Published UK: 1 December 2016
Publisher:Random House UK
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US



A book lover who clearly has issues as obsessed with crime despite leading a respectable life

24 thoughts on “What Remains of Me – Alison Gaylin

  1. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it more, but thanks for the review – I’ve been swithering over this one, but think I’ll skip it. The Hollywood lifestyle does nothing for me either, and I’m sure I’d get annoyed at not knowing about the first murder… Onwards and upwards! 🙂


  2. Sorry to hear this one didn’t sweep you away, Cleo. But I know just what you mean about wanting to know characters a little better, and really understand them. It can be harder to feel any sympathy for really enigmatic characters. And, like you, I’m not overly fascinated by the Hollywood lifestyle. Hmmm….no, this one probably wouldn’t be for me. I did very much enjoy your careful review of it, though.


  3. I’m on my library wait list for this one but based on your review I’m not sure I’ll like this one. When you said things were too elusive for you that’s a red flag for me because I’ve decided One thing I don’t like about many psychological thrillers is the fact that many talk in circles and as the reader I don’t like feeling that all info is being withheld until the very end…if that makes sense:) You’re review has been very helpful!!


    1. I agree with you and I think maybe having read a few in a row that annoyance meant I had a less positive reaction to this book than similar ones. I’m so glad my review has been helpful, those words mean so much 😉


  4. I think my views were probably pretty similar to yours on this one. It was just a little bit too slow for me and I don’t think I particularly liked anyone in it. The one I was most curious about was her neighbor, who he was and how he’d ended up as the kinda scary madman.


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