Reviews from Lord Taylor of Glencoe
Last Known Victim: Erica Spindler, 9—24 July, 2011
My rating: ♦♦♦♦♦
Spindler avoids the clichéd lone wolf cop, instead introducing us to the Malone dynasty. O’Shay’s late husband was also a policeman, her nephew is her depute who himself is dating a female cop in charge of a separate investigation. The extended family and friends that make up O’Shay’s private and personal life make a refreshing change. Each family member has their own life and is a distinct character in their own right. The extensive use of italics to reveal the characters’ thoughts peels back another layer of a well-rounded cast.
Very impressive is the backstory told and untold behind every family member. Often things are just alluded to or hinted at, but it shows Spindler has created complex characters. Unlike many books which start with a load of clean slates who begin to experience the plot, Spindler’s cast actually have lives pre-dating the book, past experiences and relationships that have formed their characters as they are.
The interrelationships of the wider cast are written excellently. In a genre which is so heavily plot-based, Last Known Victim has a fantastic amount of character-led drama. During the many twists, the reader is as interested to see the impact on a relationship, the reaction of an individual, as to the impact on the case.
The plot has been thoroughly thought through and, as the date and time stamps at the start of each chapter reveals, carefully planned without seeming at all forced or contrived. If it does get a little repetitive in parts, there are enough twists to cancel that out. Every time the reader thinks they’re a step ahead, they’ve solved the case, O’Shay and co. catch up, only to reveal that it’s yet another red herring thrown in to confuse you. It’s the original “that’s what they want you to think” scenario. No matter how clever you are, Spindler is cleverer. Is the conclusion one curve ball too many? Perhaps.
Writer’s craft is only noticeable when it’s bad. Good writing style is unnoticed by the reader, too engrossed in the story to care. But Spindler’s style is so good, so exquisite, that the reader can’t help but observe the skill and care that has woven together the characters, plot and scenes so masterfully.
Having said that, for some reason spaces have frequently been omitted after closing speech marks, and also before people’s names (particularly, but not only, Yvette’s). Perhaps it’s the result of abuse of a Search & Replace function, but Mira should rectify this for future prints because poor editing on the publisher’s part shouldn’t distract the reader from the author’s masterpiece. (And, as an aside, if they haven’t spoken to Coca Cola about a sponsorship deal for the volume and detail of product placement, they should!)
So a little bad grammar and maybe a chapter too far with respect to the ending, but this book deserves no less than five stars. Not for perfection, but because Spindler has done more than just outline a clever plot or hammer out some characters. She really has, in Last Known Victim, told a story. A story of so many lives, complex and unique, interconnecting and their personalities blending, complementing, clashing. With style, skill and wit, Spindler invites you to open the pages and not just read, but step into another world.