There are many lists with writing tips on the internet. Some are good, others not so much. I once came across one that had some really good advise. It also had one point that said Make everything the could go wrong go wrong. My immediate reaction after reading that was a burning desire to take out my copy of Henning Mankell's The White Lioness and hit the creator of this list over the head with it. And then force them to read the book (which would be so much more painful) and then ask if they still think that everything should go wrong. Because The White Lioness is a book where everything that can go wrong does go wrong and it's horrible.
Of course it is annoying if your characters would be dead after 10 pages if it wasn't for countless incredibly lucky circumstances and a lot of authors don't seem to get that.
However it is equally annoying if the case would be wrapped up neatly after 10 pages if it wasn't for a number of riddiculously unlucky circumstances.
I did not tell all this because I like talking that much (well I do like it but that's not the point...) but because Those We Left Behind is another of those books where just about everything goes wrong. It doesn't reach quite the level of The White Lioness but there's too many instances of people deciding to do something at the moment where it's causing the most harm. There is actually a moment about three quarters into the book where one of the boys is about to tell everything but is stopped when the DI's boss turns up just at that moment.
Additionally I couldn't really warm up to Serena Flanagan, the main character. She made some horrible and stupid decisions that were just inexcusable and even when she wasn't I just couldn't warm up to her. She's just one of the many fictional cops who is always so busy with the job that partner and children suffer. Yes it's truth in fiction but you still could copy & paste the discussions between her and her husband into a dozen other books or films without having to change anything but the names. There is nothing that makes either of them stand out from the crowd.
This is mostly because apart from Serena we have three other POV-characters: Ciaran, the boy who was convicted of the murder, Paula, Ciaran's probation-officer and David, the son of the murder-victim. Especially Ciaran gets a lot of pages and they are just so frustrating because he is such a passive character. Don't get me wrong: it makes sense that he would be but that doesn't mean reading about a character who barely does anything unless told to is any less...boring.
I still read the book in a few hours so it was engaging enough and I did want to find out how exactly it would end but I don't feel the need to pick up any following books.
ARC provided by NetGalley.