As She Left It
(BOLOBooks Review)

From the Booking Desk:

For those that did not stop by yesterday, don’t forgot to go back and read the wonderful interview with Catriona McPherson.  And today, we have the review of her new book, As She Left It.

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Catriona McPherson’s new novel, her first stand-alone, is called As She Left It.  It is very different from her extremely popular and award-winning Dandy Gilver mystery series but don’t let that discourage you from giving it a try.  Readers who go along for the journey will be justly rewarded.

Every so often, a book comes along that is truly difficult to classify.   As She Left It is one such book.  While it is technically a mystery, it is also so much more than that.  At its core, it is the coming of age story of a young girl on the cusp of adulthood.   Twenty-five year old Opal Jones must learn to come to terms with her past and find a place for herself within a close-knit community.

This growth process that Opal faces is circled by a variety of mysteries – the central one being the disappearance of Craig Southgate, a boy who went missing from Opal’s childhood neighborhood close to ten years ago.  In the course of her inquiries about the past, Opal also stumbles on an antique which causes her to investigate the identity of another distant neighbor who she believes may be the author of some cryptic notes she has discovered.  The third major thing that is occupying Opal’s mind is her desire to reunite her old music teacher, Fishbo, with his relatives who have been missing in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina.  Trouble is, New Orleans is thousands of miles away and across the ocean.

Early on in the novel, Opal Jones returns to her old childhood home after the passing of her mother only to discover that someone has been keeping up with the bills and that everything is now in her name.  You see, Opal left home some ten years back, after suffering through a rough childhood with a less than stellar mother.  Opal’s mother was an alcoholic who had a parade of male suitors prancing in and out of the family home.  Now, Opal simply can’t imagine which of the Mote Street neighbors would have watched over the house during its vacancy.

At this point, readers are introduced to the unique collection of individuals who populate Mote Street.  Along with Fishbo and his house-mates, there is Mrs Pickess (the snoop), the Joshi family (the foreigners) and Dennis and Margaret Reid.  The Reid’s are the grandparents of Craig Southgate and Opal quickly realizes that they remain devastated over his vanishing.  When talking with each of the neighbors, Opal learns that some of them may be keeping secrets about the night that Craig went missing.   And then there is the new man who has just moved in next door to Opal.  This enigmatic stranger keeps waking Opal during the night with the strange noises coming from his dwelling.

As Opal sees that Mote Street and the residents are stuck in the past, she sets out to uncover the secret (or secrets) behind Craig’s disappearance.   The only problem is that she has no idea how this will change her perception of those she once called friends and neighbors.  She quickly comes to learn that one can never really know another person, even when you live in such close proximity.  And often, people are keeping secrets not from others, but from themselves.

To say any more would risk spoiling the act of discovery for new readers, so I will just encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this wonderful novel.  With As She Left It, Catriona McPherson has written a beautifully constructed novel which is both a compelling mystery and a tale of the personal journey of one girl as she discovers the realities of adulthood.

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Disclaimer:  A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher.  No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.