Review: Don’t Look Back by Josh Lanyon .. seriously, don’t look. Don’t bother.

Don't Look BackDon’t Look Back by Josh Lanyon

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook version of this because someone had asked me about my 2 star rating (sans review) and I had no idea why I’d rated it that way. Funny enough listening to the book I remembered absolutely nothing about it so it was like reading for the first time. I still didn’t like it, so apparently my tastes haven’t changed that much. I found the story plodding, silly, and disliked the main character a lot. I liked the concept of the story quite a bit and think written in a different way it would have been a real hit. Unfortunately I found JL’s handling of the idea clunky, obvious, and not entertaining sadly. I know other people who loved it so ymmv.

Peter Killian is a curator at a small local museum but he wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. Without knowing why he’s in the hospital or what is preventing him from remembering, he’s the main suspect in a series of thefts from the museum. Peter doesn’t know much but he knows that he didn’t steal anything. He just doesn’t think he’s that type of person. The detective in charge however does think Peter is that type of person. Scared, confused, and increasingly alone Peter tries to remember the details of his life and who the real thief could be.

Like I said the concept is a really good one that had me hooked. The idea that someone wakes up without their memory and only has their instinct to go on is intriguing. Is Peter a thief and criminal but he’s changed by being hit over the head and failing to remember his old ways? This is the question that caught my attention the most although it’s never really an option. It’s clear Peter is not the culprit (that’s not a spoiler) but I would have liked if the story had explored that possibility. Instead the story moves on to Peter picking his way through his friends and acquaintances to understand where they fit. More specifically where Peter’s best friend Cole and the police detective investigating the thefts fit with Peter. I guessed what they both were to Peter almost immediately as it seemed beyond obvious and no other option.

I missed the subtly and nuance that Lanyon mysteries usually offer and found this story really obvious. Unfortunately Peter as the main character and narrator didn’t help. He has no memory so initially he has to rely on information provided to him. So he believes everything Cole tells him, even as he acknowledges that some of Cole’s statements are lies, but resists pretty much everything else anyone tries to tell him. So Peter trusts everything Cole says, Cole as someone Peter acknowledges is lying to him, but actively refutes and ignores the statements from everyone else that dispute Cole as a good person. This is where I ran into a problem because Peter is so willfully ignorant that I just didn’t really care what happened to him. He does incredibly stupid things that anyone with a modicum of sense would know better, i.e. the pawnshop scene, and basically has to be spoon fed the resolution by other people.

The narrator is what mostly helped me get through this one and it’s a quick novella to read/listen to, but it’s definitely one I never want to re-visit. I think JL has done much better books than this one but again everything in reading is personal preference. I found the concept good but execution poor unfortunately. It mostly comes down to the unlikable main character and an uninteresting mystery. It’s clear from the very beginning who the real culprit was and the book is just an exercise in getting Peter to understand that truth. I didn’t have the patience or even care that Peter figure it out. He just seemed rather dense.

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