Is he a hero?
Eight years ago, Sharlah May Nash’s older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save both of their lives. Now thirteen years old, Sharlah has finally moved on. About to be adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner, Sharlah loves one thing best about her new family: They are all experts on monsters.
Is he a killer?
Then the call comes in. A double murder at a local gas station, followed by reports of an armed suspect shooting his way through the wilds of Oregon. As Quincy and Rainie race to assist, they are forced to confront mounting evidence: The shooter may very well be Sharlah’s older brother, Telly Ray Nash, and it appears his killing spree has only just begun.
All she knows for sure: He’s back.
As the clock winds down on a massive hunt for Telly, Quincy and Rainie must answer two critical questions: Why after eight years has this young man started killing again? And what does this mean for Sharlah? Once upon a time, Sharlah’s big brother saved her life. Now, she has two questions of her own: Is her brother a hero or a killer? And how much will it cost her new family before they learn the final, shattering truth? Because as Sharlah knows all too well, the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.
It’s been a while since I have spend any time with Rainie and Quincy, the two Lisa Gardner characters I feel the most connected too as they were in the first of her books I read. Starting Right Behind You felt like meeting up with old friends. I had missed them and needed to know what they had been up to, which includes making a family with their soon to be adopted foster daughter, Sharlah.
Sharlah is a teenager and a difficult one at times. Not just because of her age but because of her past. Raised by parents who were alcoholics and drug addicts until she was four, she has been in the foster system ever since, moving from home to home. The same is true of her brother Telly, who she hasn’t seen since they were taken into care. For him, life was probably more difficult still. He was five years older. And he had killed his dad after his dad had stabbed his mom. Or at least that is his and Sharlah’s story and it’s one they have both stuck to.
Things seemed to have been turning round for seventeen year old Telly though. He was living with a caring foster family who were determined to give him the skills to enter adulthood. So it seemed to make no sense when his foster parents turned up dead, as well as two other seemingly innocent people, all shot by Telly before he went on the run. What also didn’t make sense was why he had photos of Sharlah and whether she was in danger.
It is left for Rainie, Quincy and the local sheriff to figure out because they may not know where Telly is or where he’ll be ongoing next but they do know things don’t seem to make sense. This becomes more obvious to the reader as Telly tells his story, staring with his early life and how he tried to keep his sister safe through to how he began to care for his foster parents. These chapters are interspersed with ones focusing on the search for him, including ones told by Sharlah.
Hearing from Telly and Sharlah is one of the things that sets this book apart. It humanises a potential killer and shines a light on just how hard life can be for kids that grow up in care, especially when their early life makes it hard for them to trust. It also show how love can make a real difference in the lives of such kids. This might seem an odd thing to be saying in a review of a piece of crime fiction but it is an important part of the story and gives it a depth you don’t find in a lot of books in this genre. It means you care for the characters, and want things to work out for them.
The other thing that makes this book great is the story itself. It’s a complicated plot with lots of twists and turns. Yet it doesn’t feel far fetched or unbelievable. Each secret revealed or mystery uncovered seems right, makes perfect sense, and helps develop your understanding of the characters and their behaviours or provides you with a vital piece of the puzzle to just what is going on. It also builds the tension right through to the final scenes, meaning I couldn’t stop turning the pages and I can’t say more about this book other than I loved it – a highly recommended read.
Publication Date: 31st January, 2017
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction
Note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.