Reminiscent of the bestsellers of Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben—with a Serial-esque podcast twist—an absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense from the author of the highly acclaimed and Edgar Award-nominated What Remains of Me and the USA Today bestselling and Shamus Award-winning Brenna Spector series.
When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter. It’s not. Quentin’s podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.
Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absolutely absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband and frequent threats from internet trolls. She knows her mother better than anyone—or so she believes. But all that changes when, in an apparent home invasion, Robin’s father is killed and her mother’s life hangs in the balance.
Told through the eyes of Robin, podcaster Quentin, and a series of letters written by fifteen-year-old April Cooper at the time of the killings, Never Look Back asks the question:
How well do we really know our parents, our partners—and ourselves?
Hi and welcome to my review of Never Look Back! Massive thanks to Tracy Fenton for the tour invitation and to Orion Books for the audiobook!
Boy oh boy, how this one snuck up on me! I became so immersed in this story, so obsessed with the characters, this is a ten-hour audiobook and I flew through it in a few days. I am so very late to the Alison Gaylin party, but believe me, I’m here to stay!
The thirties had Bonnie and Clyde, the seventies had April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. Depicted in the press as bloodthirsty, gone down in history as the Inland Empire Killers, THE criminal couple of the seventies, April and Gabriel are more than a little infamous. But what do we really know about them? The letters written by April to her future daughter at the age of 15 are completely at odds with how she’s portrayed: a coldblooded killer with a murderous gleam in her eyes. After having read a few of April’s letters I couldn’t help but wonder: what if that gleam was not a sign of murder on the mind, but merely the glint of unshed tears?
Quentin blames April Cooper for his own crappy childhood. When his mum Kate was 14, her little sister was one of April and Gabriel’s victims. Afterwards, Kate’s mother committed suicide and her father never recovered from his loss, and his misery was passed down the family tree. Quentin grew up with an addict for a mother and is very bitter about it indeed. When his husband and his co-producer suggest he create a podcast about the Inland Empire Killers, Quentin dives into the past, and discovers that, although her body was found in a fire decades ago, April might not be dead after all.
Quentin’s investigations lead him to columnist Robin in New York City. Robin is not in a very good place right now, trolled for an article she wrote and at odds with her husband, but there are two people she has always been able to count on: her parents. And then Quentin shows up and drops the April Cooper bombshell on her, telling her that he thinks her mum might be the infamous April Cooper. Could it be that the kind, loving woman she has known all her life is actually a stone-cold killer? She knows her mother! Of course she does! Doesn’t she? Then tragedy strikes and it’s unsure whether Robin will ever be able to know for sure whether there’s any truth to Quentin’s allegations.
All the mystery and suspense and tension and questions did my head in! I needed to know the truth about April, why she did what she did and if she was in fact still alive, and if so: was she Robin’s mother or someone else entirely, and if she was still alive, then who perished in the fire? I needed to know what happened to Robin’s parents, who would want to hurt them, and why? And what was going on with Quentin? Good grief, if I’d listened to Never Look Back on Audible I would have sped up the narration like you wouldn’t believe, just to find out the answers to all my questions more quickly! The app I got this audiobook on didn’t allow me to do that, so I started listening at all hours of the day.
Signing up for this tour, I was vaguely hoping for a Scott King / Six Stories type of format, but that is not what this is. With the exception of the prologue, in which Quentin introduces himself and the topic of his podcast, it’s not formatted as a podcast, it’s a behind the scenes, a making of. Who to talk to, what questions to ask, which leads to follow, and along the way something happens, something magical, the line between fiction and reality blurs and you’re sucked into the story, believing it, living it.
Never Look Back has a dual narration with Jorjeana Marie narrating the female voices (mostly April’s letters and Robin’s POV) and James Fouhey narrating mostly Quentin and the odd male supporting character. Marie tweaks her voice to accommodate various female and male voices, Fouhey does not. I usually prefer some voice tweaking, but in this case I didn’t mind the simple narration, it was always clear who was speaking in conversations, and there was enough intonation and emotion to keep it entertaining.
Never Look Back is a clever, insidious, shocking thriller that I won’t easily forget. It’s a crazy roller coaster that kept me in doubt until the very end. Even when the pool of suspects was getting very VERY narrow, I still couldn’t make up my mind one way or the other. If you’re into audiobooks, then do pick this one up on Audible or any other audiobook provider, if you’re not, then go for the eBook or print version, this is a story that must be read, in whatever format! Highly recommended!