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The Eagle Angle

The student news site of Allen High School.

The Eagle Angle

The student news site of Allen High School.

The Eagle Angle

One of Us is Back: A Review


(Spoiler warning for “One of Us is Lying,”  “One of Us is Next” and “One of Us is Back”)

“One of Us is Back” is a gripping conclusion to Karen M. McManus’ final installment in the “One of Us is Lying” trilogy, albeit slightly lacking in emotional depth. Nevertheless, the novel remains compelling through gripping plot twists and beloved characters. This addition was an ideal send-off to characters and loose threads left behind in Bayview for the past two volumes.

Readers have anticipated a finale since the first novel was released in May 2017. This installment is most notably a “full-circle” closure to “Simon’s death” and the circulation of family drama and Bayview secrets sparked from his deadly games, according to McManus

Following the bomb attack in the previous novel, the nine self-proclaimed members of the “Murder Club” settle down for the summer. The novel hones in on a mix of three characters from the past installments, the first two perhaps the most impacted by traumatic events.

Addy, a well-developed fan-favorite from the first book, grapples with fear as her ex-boyfriend Jake — who tried to murder her — is let out of jail. Her transformation was fascinating, but overwrought in this edition. Fans know her, and many love her. Unfortunately, there’s not much else to add to her character anymore. In this volume, her storyline is pleasing, but not suspiciously tantalizing like the first.

Struggling to erase his past as he juggles supporting three jobs and his parents, a concluding narrative from Nate’s perspective was a great decision for the novel. His slightly rocky path to creating a stable life for himself still leaves some room for character growth.

The novel kicks off when he notices a billboard: “Time for a new game, Bayview.” This time, it’s not just another insensitive marketing campaign — it’s someone much more dangerous. 

Phoebe, a fascinating role in the second book — but relegated to an add-on for this volume — becomes the aftermath of plot points instead of internal arcs. After the billboard incident, she struggles with telling the Murder Club about her younger brother’s problematic past. Unfortunately, this crucial revelation only transpires after the mystery is solved, which is a loss of a pivotal moment for her character, as well as her connection to the events surrounding her. Somewhere between the second and third novels, McManus stunted Phoebe’s growth and relationships, leaving barely any room for readers to enjoy her side of the story.

The Murder Club throws a birthday party in spite of their struggles with Bayview’s drama. Phoebe’s excessive drinking at the party results in her kidnapping, setting the stage for the Murder Club’s investigation and the unraveling of the complete story.

Although the beginning drags, the novel picks up the excitement near the end. 

The novel’s intrigue peaks through the narratives of Simon and Jake, well-known antagonists whose pasts are given the limelight in this novel.  Their alternating perspectives deliberately — almost too slowly — build up to the climax, revealing old and new characters and weaving in the current story as tension builds. McManus neglects the long-delayed nature of this plotline, a narrative thread that had been lingering well before the duration of this book. But when the climax hits, it proves to be a masterstroke, emphasizing McManus’ adeptness at crafting a compelling mystery. 

After being kidnapped, Phoebe is found in a shed with the word “practice” scrawled across her arm. When Nate’s roommate gets abducted, he’s left dead with the words “makes.” Linking the famous “practice makes perfect” line to a Bayview firm and a terrible family incident, the Bayview Crew edges much closer to identifying the murderer. 

The seemingly insignificant connection between Simon and Jake and the true antagonists of the novel proves to be pivotal in the end. 

Nate and Addy uncover the dual identities of their coworkers, Gavin and Emma, with Emma emerging as the vengeful daughter of a murdered managing director from the Bayview firm. The plot twists are executed phenomenally, as is expected of McManus’ signature style.

Simon’s blackmail of Jake exposes the underlying motive behind the events of the past three books. This revelation itself is worthwhile for readers. Simon and Jake’s unique voices are an interesting contrast to the main cast for readers to enjoy. 

While the Murder Club meticulously pieces together the puzzle till the last minute — a recurring motif throughout the trilogy — it somewhat shifts in this installment. The unfolding events are more closely entwined with the past, centered around Jake, Simon, and fresh faces, rather than intensely personal to the Murder Club members themselves. 

In the first book, they were prime suspects in a murder case. In the second, they faced the prospect of becoming murder victims. These premises generated some of the most riveting young adult mysteries in the market. 

This novel fails to bring in the thrilling build-up of events in the second novel, or the tantalizing unreliable-narrator arcs that kept readers on the edge of their seats in the first. Although last on the list to read, it is a must for fans of the series. 

McManus yet again attempts to strike a delicate balance: Retaining the essence of a murder mystery—a feat she accomplishes well—while heightening the personal stakes even more. This proves challenging as these characters, for the most part, have completed their respective journeys and now seem weary of continually reacting to the aftermath of new events. 

Thankfully, by the end of this book, the Murder Club is at peace — and for the first time — completely finished with Bayview’s schemes. McManus gives the readers exactly what they want, but doesn’t offer much up for extra, either.

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

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About the Contributor
Saanavi Shah
Saanavi Shah, Staffer
"I love to read and write, so I’m super excited to be on the news staff this year! I also enjoy participating in extracurricular activities, as well as playing and listening to music."

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