All We Cannot Leave Behind

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Pub Date 28 Feb 2024 | Archive Date 22 Mar 2024

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Edinburgh, 1920. Three children are missing, abducted from the poorhouses of the city.

When a body is found near the town of Liberton, Dr Thomas Stevenson, still suffering from the trauma of the First World War, finds himself drawn into the police investigation. But suspicion falls on the woman with the mysterious past who lives with Thomas. Could she be guilty of the brutal murder?

With time running out and lives at stake, Thomas must prove her innocence, but to do that he has to find the real killer and unlock the truth about her secret past. A past that casts a long, dark shadow.

Edinburgh, 1920. Three children are missing, abducted from the poorhouses of the city.

When a body is found near the town of Liberton, Dr Thomas Stevenson, still suffering from the trauma of the...

A Note From the Publisher

Iain Kelly lives in East Kilbride, Scotland. He is married with two children and works in the media industry as a television editor. A graduate of English Literature from the University of Glasgow, when he is not creating stories through sound and vision, he is writing them. He is the author of the futuristic thrillers A Justified State, State Of Denial and State Of War, and the coming-of-age mystery The Barra Boy.

Iain Kelly lives in East Kilbride, Scotland. He is married with two children and works in the media industry as a television editor. A graduate of English Literature from the University of Glasgow...

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ISBN 9781835740361
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Average rating from 18 members

Featured Reviews

Set in 1920 in Edinburgh, which is authentically described, this character driven novel drew me in from the start.. The writing is beautiful and I was left feeling quite emotional as the story unfolded. The characterisation is excellent, I was invested from the start, and I really felt compassion for Dr Thomas who suffers from shell shock, and Louise whose past is filled with darkness. This is a beautiful work of fiction, which I highly recommend. Thanks to Net Galley for my ARC.

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This is an outstanding novel, written by an author who is fast becoming one of the best writers working in Scotland today.
I was hooked from the opening scenes on the canal near Castlecary, and the author's dark and skilled portrait of Edinburgh and its suburbs, in the years before and after the Great War.
I found reading the story of Louise and Thomas as touching and affecting as the acclaimed 'Human Traces' by Sebastian Faulks. Here are characters and places overwhelmed by poverty; a society lacking in charity, and the constant fight against hunger, mental illness and homelessness.
This is a moving and challenging book, highlighting the status of women in a world still trying to recover from the horrors of war. Iain Kelly follows in the esteemed footsteps of Charles Dickens by using his fiction to bring attention to the social problems of the era. He writes with a compassionate and honest voice.

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All We Cannot Leave Behind by Iain Kelly is an emotive read and had my heart aching.

Two years after WWI Dr Thomas Stevenson is back in Edinburgh, suffering from shell shock and trying to rebuild his life but he is called to assist the police when a body is found and that is only the beginning of his troubles

Iain Kelly is able to draw the reader into a powerful, dark, all-encompassing narrative. Kelly writes with a brutal honesty that is all at once gritty and gentle, hard-hitting and empathetic. A very well researched and unique storyline that is truthful to the huge social divides of the era

Thank you to Netgalley, The Book Guild and the author Iain Kelly for this incredible ARC. My review is left voluntarily and all opinions are my own

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If, like me, you turn to historical mysteries when you want a distraction from the life at hand, All We Cannot Leave Behind will provide you several hours', even a weekend's worth, of time away from the vicissitudes of daily life. Set in 1920s Edinburgh, All We Cannot Leave Behind offers an excellent pair of central characters and a satisfyingly twisted plot.

Our central characters, Thomas and Louise, are each haunted in their own way and are reluctant to open up to others. This tendency is decidedly ironic in the case of Thomas. He worked as surgeon during WWI and has taken to drinking himself to sleep in hopes of forgetting what he witnessed on the battlefield. Now that the war is over, Thomas works with British veterans suffering from shell shock using the "talking cure" in hopes of easing their return to civilian life. Despite the fact that Thomas witnesses the value of the "talking cure," he shares his wartime life with no one.

Louise has moved among different poor houses as both a resident and a worker. When the home for fallen women that she has become part of closes, Thomas offers her a room in his home—which came with his practice and is larger than he needs. There's no intention of seduction here. Just two individuals hiding from their pasts, each careful not to trespass onto the secret parts of one another's lives. Theirs is a companionship based on not knowing.

When three children disappear from Edinburgh poor houses, and one is soon found murdered, Thomas finds himself pulled into the investigation, first for his medical knowledge, and later in defense of Louise who has become a suspect. Thomas wrestles with his demons, drinks, and talks with veterans, including a new patient who is clearly lying to him and whose affect makes him deeply uneasy. Louise manages her anxiety by working as an assistant housekeeper at a local boys' school—and is dismissed the moment she comes under suspicion.

Part of the pleasure of the plotting here is that because Thomas and Louise are so determinedly closed off, the reader actually has more knowledge of these crime—and of their own lives—than either of them do. Readers can see the places where puzzle pieces might be slotted together, but aren't, and must wait anxiously for the two of them to catch up with the truth of their own lives and the truth behind these crimes.

If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly mysteries, and appreciate interesting plotting, you'll want to read All We Cannot Leave Behind.

I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.

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This is an emotional tale that deals with traumatic subjects with a tender but unflinching honesty.

Set in 1920s Edinburgh, and depicting the massive social inequality and prevalent attitudes towards women, the poor, and mental health with an authenticity that shines through, this is an interesting piece of work.

The characters of Thomas and Louise are well-drawn, and the reader is moved by their predicament, as well as the suffering of those in the poorhouse. Worth checking out, especially if historical novels are your jam.

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Good read.

The opening sentence is a foreshadow of the story. "It was his favourite part of the day. The sun dipped below the trees, glinting through the bare autumn branches, a hush descended, a calmness settled, welcoming the oncoming darkness."

I felt flavors of Poe in this, " the crow cawed again. Thomas was sure it was warning him, a portent of doom that sent a shiver down his chilled spine".


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This is the second novel I've read by this author and he again didn't disappoint. Atmospheric, poignant and a well-paced tale. Loved how it was set in Edinburgh and I felt I was back amongst the winding streets (albeit was set 100 years ago between the world wars). Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced digital copy.

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Edinburgh 1920. The city is shaken by the abduction of three babies from local poor houses. Dr Thomas Stevenson, still suffering form his time in the trenches finds himself dragged into the investigation when a child's body is found in the quiet area of Liberton where he lives & has his small practice. Suspicion falls on Louise, the quiet woman that lives with him. Working with ex soldiers suffering from shell shock, he recognises the trauma she has suffered in the past but Thomas is convinced she is innocent of any involvement in the missing babies- but how far will he have to go to save her.

This was a well written book that captured the setting & the time well (I found it quite hard to return to the present day!) It held the interest throughout. Thanks to Netgalley & the publisher for letting me read or review this book.

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An Atmospheric, dark and rather haunting read from Iain Kelly.

All We Cannot Leave Behind is a superb character focused historical mystery that really draws you in and holds you tight as the stories of Louise and Thomas are laid bare.

The crimes itself focus on children going missing from
The Poorhouses and the mystery is well plotted but for me the real star of the show in this book are the two main characters and how Iain Kelly allows them to grow and build through the story.

A really gripping read, a book I probably didn’t expect to enjoy quite so much as I did. And a book that will lead me to read the others from a very talented writer


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Iain Kelly is a new author for me and I plan to read the famous Barra Boy book next. He writes beautifully. I'd describe this book as a historical literary thriller that's worth the bit of effort necessary to read. There were times when I picked up a "lighter '' book as a palate cleanser. There’s quite a bit of dark in this particular book. Dual timelines, set in Edinburgh in 1905 and 1920, it also tackles some tough topics that are still timely. We have two very interesting and extremely tortured characters that this reader fell for and part of what kept me reading was rooting for their happy ever after. I appreciated the education on early shell shock treatments and other history lessons. I thought the ending was perfectly hopefully without being exactly happy. Thanks to Net Gally, the author and publisher for the ARC and I look forward to more from this highly talented author.

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I found this such a fascinating read, set in Scotland in the early 1900s. The storyline centres on the local doctor, Thomas, and Louise, a woman from the poorhouse.

My only niggle is the written form of dialect. If you are from that area, you would probably understand it. Unfortunately I not and I didn't. I always feel I'm missing something important or I've to stop the flow of reading to work out what was said. It's a shame because the storyline was so good.

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I previously enjoyed very much ‘The Barra Boy’ by Iain Kelly,and so was delighted to be given the opportunity of reading an advance copy of his latest book ‘All We Cannot Leave Behind’.
Set around events in 1920,and some preceding years ,the story focuses on traumatised World War One veteran,Dr. Thomas Stevenson and the mysterious woman who lives with him.Their lives are turned upside down,when the police investigation into three children from the poorhouses of Edinburgh are reported as missing.
At first I felt that I might struggle to enjoy this story due to the era it is set in,as historical fiction is not normally my preferred genre.I was very pleasantly surprised that the narrative quickly grabbed my interest .The main characters were very sympathetically drawn and I felt drawn into the unfolding events of the situations they found themselves.Ultimately an exciting,and absorbing tale,told in a incredibly compelling manner.

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This uses the 1920s element perfectly, it had everything that I was expecting from a historical mystery element to this plot. The characters felt like they were supposed to and enjoyed the history elements. It was tense and worked with the mystery element. I thought Iain Kelly wrote this perfectly and left me wanting more.

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Thank you NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this book ahead of time in exchange for a review. You should read it!

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