Quercus | 2017 (ebook: 15 June, Pb: 27 July) | 432p | Review copy | Buy the book
One cold January day it looks as if things might be about to get interesting for Jess Mount. She has a job she loves, working alongside her best friend Sadie in her local cinema, and she has a close relationship with her father with whom she lives. But Jess just isn’t the sort of person, or so she believes, that men can fall in love with – on a whim, in an instant. And then Lee comes along. But falling in love isn’t the only strange and unfamiliar thing in her life. Suddenly, Jess’s Facebook is full of messages of condolence from her friends, colleagues and family. Her father and Sadie leave devastated posts and private messages. Because the person who is dead is Jess.
The posts give Jess a date, about eighteen months into the future, on which she can expect to meet her death. Nobody else can see the posts and she can’t save or download them. And when she tries to tell anyone about them she’s not surprised to find them looking at her as if she’s lost her mind. But as the posts continue and Jess learns more about her future life – and death – she discovers one element of her future she wouldn’t change for the world, even if it would save her life – she has a child. It’s while looking at her son’s picture that Jess learns once and for all the true meaning and power of love at first sight.
The psychological thriller market is a crowded place and, these days, to grab my attention there has to be something different about them – After I’ve Gone gave me this in buckets and is one of the most original thrillers I’ve read for a long time. Its premise is intriguing and it’s certainly original and the way in which it’s handled is brilliantly done. Although it sounds unbelievable that future posts can suddenly appear on one’s facebook, we accept it because Jess takes the dilemma into her heart and she makes us believe. The novel moves between narrators and the posts themselves, but the vast majority of the novel is told in Jess’s own words as she struggles to reconcile her need to survive this death foretold with her intense commitment to ensuring that she does nothing to prevent the birth of this child.
Jess’s character is deeply likeable. She’s not a conventional heroine, with her DM boots, quirky sense of humour and disregard for what’s normal. Her unusual job in the cinema suits her, as does her best friend Sadie. I cared for Jess so deeply but she also made me laugh. I really enjoyed the delicate way in which Linda Green portrays the effect of love on these two close friends as Lee inevitably moves them apart. Jess’s past overshadows her and this affects the way that people deal with her in the present. It makes her vulnerable. Her tender relationship with her father is a wonderful part of this novel. We believe that Jess is the sort of person that might see these strange future Facebook messages but we don’t question it – our focus is on Jess in the here and now.
But Jess’s death hangs over this novel from the very beginning and, as the days and weeks pass, the mood becomes increasingly ominous. It adds an incredible amount of tension to the book and also pace. After I’ve Gone is one of the most urgent pageturners that I’ve read. I read this book in a day and it’s not a small one. I had to know what happened. I couldn’t bear not knowing. And I was thoroughly intrigued as to how this situation would be resolved.
After I’ve Gone is an outstanding psychological thriller with a great story backed up by some of the most wonderful characters. I couldn’t get enough of it. I haven’t read any Linda Green novels before – what a mistake that’s been. I intend to put it right.