Audiobook Review: Left For Dead by Caroline Mitchell
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3 of 5 stars
Series: Book 3 of DI Amy Winter
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (July 8, 2020)
Length: 10 hrs and 4 mins
Narrator: Elizabeth Knowelden
Left for Dead by Caroline Mitchell is the third book of a police procedural style mystery series featuring protagonist DI Amy Winter. While it is not my usual habit to jump into a book mid-series, I thought I would make an exception for this one because the publisher description simply sounded too good to resist. As it turned out though, I might have made the wrong call with that one (but more on that in a bit).
As the story opens, a heinous murder has just taken place, and the next day, Amy and her sister are out shopping when they discover the victim in the most shocking and macabre manner. Through a store window of a gorgeous Valentine’s Day display, Amy notices that the mannequin in a luxurious diamond-encrusted wedding dress is leaking blood out of its mouth. Turns out, the mannequin is actually a corpse of a young woman, who had been alive when she was trussed up in her layers of skirts and lace, then left to die where she sat on her elaborate display.
Pretty soon, more women are reported missing as the killer becomes emboldened by the thrill of the spectacle, choosing his targets using an escort service to satisfy his urges. But he’s also clever and knows how to cover his tracks. Not to mention, he has a special interest in DI Amy Winter, who is heading up investigation. In her, he sees the possibility of a kindred spirit, since it is known that Amy comes from a family of serial killers. In fact, the whole country has been watching the much publicized trial against her mother, Lillian Grimes, who is facing a life sentence for her murderous crimes. It is also the perfect opportunity to throw off the police, knowing that their lead detective will most likely be distracted by the media circus surrounding the court coverage.
To its credit, Left for Dead did work pretty well as a standalone. However, if I had to do it all over again, I probably wouldn’t have started with this one. Although the story managed to do a good job catching new readers up with the backstory of DI Amy Winter, so much of the plot was tied up in her mother and her court trial that, not being familiar with all the details that were covered in the previous books, it was hard for me to feel emotionally invested in what was a big chunk of the novel. That’s definitely on me and not the book, though, so readers who have followed this series from the beginning will likely not have the same problems.
That said, there were other issues that affected my enjoyment. While I’m aware Left for Dead is less of a suspense-thriller and more of a crime mystery involving the police and the culprit playing cat and mouse, it was still a little disappointing to find out who the killer was right off the bat. It’s one thing to give readers an intimate look at the inside of a psychopath’s mind, and I can certainly appreciate it if that was the author’s intent, but the overall character development was pretty light. Sam, a high-power advertising exec was something of a paint-by-numbers villain, and it didn’t feel like much time was put into building his persona.
Without that many twists and surprises, the book mainly relied on the Lillian Grimes plot thread to generate interest, and like I said, those of us who didn’t start reading the series from the beginning will be at a disadvantage. Not that I minded following the courtroom parts too much, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find them to be a distraction from the murder case plot arc. And with the attention divided, the result was that the investigation storyline felt a tad rushed and overly simplistic.
Ultimately, Left for Dead isn’t a bad read at all, but having read a lot more of this genre in recent years, admittedly the book falls on the more generic and easily forgettable side of things with a fairly predictable plotline and run-of-the-mill characters. Also, while you can still jump in mid-series and enjoy this as a standalone because it features a self-contained case, there’s simply too much of the story that refers to the character’s backstory in the previous books that prevented me from becoming fully invested. It’d be great if future books give Amy the closure she seeks and Lillian the punishment she deserves, but I doubt I’ll continue with the series, at least without going back to the previous books to fill in the gaps first.
Audiobook Comments: Great narration by Elizabeth Knowelden, who also narrated a great book I listened to recently (the excellent What Lies Between Us by John Marrs) so I knew the quality of performance to expect. The only change that might have made this one better was a second narrator, namely a male reader for the killer’s perspective which would have made the character’s sections feel a lot more convincing and immersive.