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  • Writer's pictureBrendan Holba

Unearthing the Past: A Review of 'What Have We Done'

Alex Finlay's 'What Have We Done' is an electrifying journey into the dark secrets and buried traumas of three former residents of Savior House, a group home for parentless teens.


Alex Finlay's gripping thriller, "What Have We Done," eases readers into a world of suspense and intrigue and follows the tumultuous lives of Jenna, Donnie, and Nico, both past and present in an intricately woven story.

Twenty-five years ago, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico were brought together by the shared torment of their childhoods. The haunting environment of Savior House, a home for orphaned youth, forged an unbreakable bond between them, one that would come to define their lives in profound ways. However, this ominous place would be forever marked by the mysterious disappearance of several children, ultimately leading to the home's closure. As they grew into adulthood, each character embarked on their own unique paths, carving out lives of varying success but always followed by a shadow of their traumatic past. Their individual stories are a testament to the enduring impact of their time at Savior House, illustrating how the echoes of their shared suffering kept them connected to one another, no matter where life took them.

Donnie self-medicates, as so many rockstars have over the years, but he has a sobering moment when he jumps from the deck of the cruise ship he is performing on and winds up in the kitchen of the fishing vessel that rescued him from the brink.

Nico is trapped in an old, abandoned mine shaft when he is lured down there by a producer from the hit TV show he anchors.

Jenna doesn't take out the target she is assigned to from The Corporation and she must balance the ramifications of not completing a job and keeping her new family safe from the fallout.

I found the novel's core strength lies in its portrayal of the intricate relationships among Jenna, Donnie, and Nico. Finlay's storytelling reveals how shared trauma can create enduring and resilient connections among people. While the novel's focus on relationships highlights the strength that can emerge from shared trauma, it also shines a spotlight on the insidious nature of betrayal. As the characters confront their shared past and the sinister secrets it holds, they must navigate a treacherous terrain where trust is a rare commodity. The theme of betrayal weaves itself throughout the story, as Jenna, Donnie, and Nico grapple with the possibility that someone within their circle may be responsible for the threats they face. This added element of doubt adds layers of tension to the narrative.

As the characters confront their shared history and return to Savior House, there is also a powerful metaphorical journey unfolding. The dilapidated building stands as a living testament to their past, and the emotional toll it has taken on them is palpable in every broken window and cracked wall. The psychology behind each character's actions and the intricately woven plot line create an atmosphere of intense anticipation. Donnie, Nico, and Jenna confront their shared past, Finlay plays masterfully with their emotions and keeps readers guessing at every turn. I was fascinated with Finlay's ability to tap into the depths of the human psyche to make this novel a must-read for anyone who relishes the cerebral aspects of the mystery genre.

A great mystery isn't just about the destination; it's about the journey. "What Have We Done" is replete with unpredictable twists and turns that keep readers guessing and second-guessing their assumptions. These unexpected revelations are not mere plot devices; I found them to be intellectual challenges to readers. This sense of unpredictability is at the heart of what makes the novel an exhilarating read.

In conclusion, "What Have We Done" is a thrilling, thought-provoking, and intricately crafted mystery that deserves a prominent place on the bookshelves of mystery enthusiasts. Alex Finlay's storytelling prowess, unpredictable plot twists, and profound exploration of the human condition make this novel an immersive and unforgettable reading experience and lead me to give it a rating of 4.25 out of 5!

If you're looking for a mystery that challenges your mind and tugs at your heartstrings, this book is a journey you won't want to miss.

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