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What Have We Done


What Have We Done

From Alex Finlay, the acclaimed author of EVERY LAST FEAR and THE NIGHT SHIFT, comes WHAT HAVE WE DONE, a multi-perspective, dual-timeline thriller that asks how much of our pasts live inside us, and whether or not we can ever outrun our secrets.

What do a murdered federal judge, a drug-addled aging rock star, the producer of the nation’s most popular reality show, a trained assassin and a tech genius all have in common? At first glance, nothing, and each of these characters would likely tell you the same thing. But in WHAT HAVE WE DONE, this unlikely cast of friends shares a very dark, dangerous past: Savior House.

A decrepit group home in a scary neighborhood of Chestertown, Pennsylvania, Savior House once housed these wildly different adults when they were just scared, lonely and traumatized children. But this was not a salvation for the orphaned, forgotten or otherwise neglected. It was yet another letdown, a place where violence ruled and girls knew never to be left alone with the home’s director, Mr. Brood, or his creepy, smarmy son. One night, five of these kids took matters into their own hands to put an end to Savior House’s disturbing legacy. Although they’ve since grown up and gone their separate ways, they’re about to reunite in the worst way imaginable: a killer is tracking them down one by one.

"Finlay’s final, shocking twist seals the deal in a satisfying way.... [WHAT HAVE WE DONE is] a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller with just enough emotional grit to make readers care about the characters along with the mystery."

The leader of the group when they were kids, Benny had a respect for justice and an inherent sense of right and wrong. Large but gentle, he was often the protector of the smaller kids, including sad, forgotten Donnie, who as a teen was already learning to quiet the anxieties and betrayals of his memories with substances. Of the five who put an end to Savior House, only Benny and Donnie have kept in touch, and Donnie is devastated when he learns that Benny, now a judge, has been murdered by an angry convict. But as Donnie drowns his sorrows in whiskey, wrinkled groupies who trail his band, Tracer’s Bullet, and music, he finds himself looking down the barrel of a gun when a woman aboard his celebrity cruise ship orders him to jump. Donnie survives but just barely, and that’s when he sees a familiar face on the television screen.

The producer of a popular reality show about miners, Nico is by all accounts a raging success, even if most people find him difficult and he’s in the hole for over $300,000 in gambling debts. When one of the stars of his program asks him to meet on set, he’s surprised to see a woman holding an unusual weapon (a cattle gun, as it turns out), who, after shooting him, traps him in a mine collapse. Nico survives, again just barely. When he learns that the FBI is involved and asking his employer for his cell phone records and recent travels, he knows that he must return to Chestertown to put an end to what he and his friends started all those years ago.

Meanwhile, in Washington, DC, Jenna is the happily married stepmother of two girls who are just starting to accept her. After Savior House was disbanded, she was adopted by The Corporation, a network of contract killers and powerfully connected individuals who have more or less controlled the country’s politics and big moves since before Jenna could hold a gun. Finding salvation in her marriage, she feels secure that she has put both her history with Savior House and her work with The Corporation behind her.

Until a mysterious woman sets her up with a shoddy job to take out the country’s most brilliant tech CEO, Artemis Templeton, also known as the fifth member of Jenna’s crew in Savior House. Sensing a deeper plot, she botches the job and tries to uncover the identity of the woman who set her up. Her search takes her back through her days of contract killing, the life she swore she left behind, and, of course, Savior House.

As these now adults try to stay alive and find answers, it becomes clear that someone knows what they did that night at Savior House and will stop at nothing to make sure that every member of the group pays for it.

With so many characters and storylines, I’ll be the first to admit that some of the subplots stretched my suspension of disbelief a touch too far. While the first third of the book laid some impressive groundwork that had me instantly hooked, the middle third felt weighed down by gratuitous histories of otherwise minor characters. That said, all of these elements fell neatly into place in the end, and Finlay’s final, shocking twist seals the deal in a satisfying way.

In the suspense/thriller genre, Finlay stands out for a couple of reasons. First, he uses multiple points of view to flesh out his plot and keep the pacing ultra-fast, while still being grounded and accessible. Second, he never shies away from a difficult scene, whether it’s an emotional arc that pushes his characters into totally new realms and opportunities for growth, or a particularly creative murder scene. In the cases of Donnie, Nico, Jenna and Artemis, this means confronting their painful pasts and their late-stage comings of age in ways that are as compassionate and emotionally resonant as they are startling and compelling.

From the outside, these adults have it all, but Finlay makes it clear that they have a lot of growing up to do. This means reckoning not only with the secret that has put their lives at risk, but with the reasons they’ve fallen apart in other ways since then. Add to that the riveting mystery of what really happened at Savior House and who wants the group dead because of it, and you have the makings of a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller with just enough emotional grit to make readers care about the characters along with the mystery.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on March 18, 2023

What Have We Done
by Alex Finlay

  • Publication Date: November 28, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 125090658X
  • ISBN-13: 9781250906588