Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn’t remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.
Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.
Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone’s only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.
Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?
This is the story of a woman who has lost her memory and therefore also her life. She can’t remember the simplest things of her past life, the years before what she refers to as her “accident”. She feels and acts like a totally different person and it wreaks havoc on her life and her relationships, especially the one with her family. At the beginning of the novel, she’s virtually a recluse, doesn’t leave the house, avoids all contact, including with her husband and son. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. This former detective who must have been decisive and efficient and kick-ass, now reduced to a shadow of herself, some watered-down version. Yet she still wants, even needs, to fix everything, to help the victims, to put away the bad guys. So she picks herself up, becomes invested in her investigation, becomes extremely driven by it, no matter the cost, no matter the consequences, and with very little thought of her family, which I couldn’t exactly admire, but did understand in a way. Together with her memories, she has lost whatever it was that made her feel like a mother, a wife. She’s become a lone wolf, and a rather blood-thirsty one at that. In this way, Past Life becomes more of a police procedural, despite the fact that Boone is no longer working for the police and her investigation is not an official one. It becomes the story of a victim refusing to remain victimised, of a woman out for revenge. That’s all I’ll tell you about that, read it and find out for yourself!
The memory loss premise is certainly an interesting one, and especially the way Boon evolves as a character is well-described and simply fascinating. Often characters suffering from memory loss know nothing about themselves, they’re often alone or don’t know who to trust and their story is about that struggle. Boone, on the other hand, learns many things about herself, she has a loving family, she KNOWS who to trust, she KNOWS who she used to be, she just doesn’t feel it. She no longer feels like an Abby, she feels like a Boone. It makes you wonder as a reader about memories, about how much of a person’s character is habit and memories. With regard to this, Dominic Nolan slips a few one-liners in there that are just spot-on.
However much I felt for Boone, my favourite character in this book is Roo. Circumstances have brought Boone and Roo together and they’re a match made in heaven (in a very unromantic way). Roo is an absolute delight, a model example of the adage “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, lemonade spiked with sarcasm that is, a truly wicked sense of humour, but exactly what Boone needs, and exactly what the story needs to prevent it from becoming too grim.
A debut you’d never guess is a debut, quite impressive.
Recommended if you like your stories raw and gritty and with a few broken teeth (don’t ask, just read ?)
Massive thanks to Becky Hunter from Headline Books for gifting me this beautiful proof! All opinions are my own and I was not paid to give them.
I loved Roo! I still have to write my review for this one but the words are failing me.
It’s a tough one to review isn’t it! I must have rewritten it like 5 times. And this was the best I could do ?
Ah, i love the whole mystery cuz of memory loss!
Considering it’s the detective who doesn’t remember it’s even cooler 😀
Thanks Norrie! I do think this would be right up your street ?
Memory loss, especially among law enforcement, is a tried and tested trope. And, if done right, can still yield a good story. But I’ve been there, read it, and am a little tired of this one. Wasn’t there a TV series just recently along this lines (Absentia) with Stana Katic from Castle in it?
That’s the problem with tropes isn’t it. A concept has success, it’s repeated, it becomes a trope, it becomes a cliché. Still, I enjoyed the execution of it in Past Life since the protagonist was so different from the usual one used in books with this trope. I don’t know the series but we tend to come to the party a bit later ?
Brilliant review! I love your description of Boone!
Aww thanks Meggy ?
Wonderful review! It sounds like a great read, I mean it’s a cool switch, it’s the detective suffering from memory loss. Gosh I have to find out what happened, adding this to my TBR.
Thanks Rose! Yes, I thought so too, a unique take on a much used trope.
This story sounds excellent! Wonderful review.