The Last Child

By John Hart

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Minotaur Books, 2009

Genres: Mystery, thriller

ISBN: 9780312359324

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 373

Setting: Rural North Carolina

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: Thirteen year old Johnny Merrimon has been looking for his twin sister, Alyssa, since she was abducted a year ago.  In this time, Johnny has also lost both his parents – his mother to drugs and alcohol and his father who walked out one day and never returned.  In spite of how his life has changed for the worse in the past year, Johnny knows that his sister is still alive somewhere and searches the town for her – house by house and street by street.  The lead detective on the case, Clyde Hunt, is also haunted by Alyssa’s disappearance and keeps working on the case even as his own family falls apart around him.  When a professor ends up dead and second girl goes missing in town, Johnny’s persistence reveals a dark and disturbing truth and unravels the threads of a tightly held secret.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: The relentless pace of this book stems in part from the short scenes which comprise each chapter.

Characterization: The story is told in third person from multiple viewpoints; the primary viewpoints are Johnny’s and Detective Hunt’s.

Frame: The five page prologue sets the frame and includes seedy characters on a bus, a child who believes in magic, and deep grief from both becoming and inflicting hurt.

Story line: A powerful and intense story involving fragile families, enduring spirits, grief, guilt, and darkness, as well as, providence and faith.

Subject headings:

From PCPL:

Missing children — Fiction.

Twins — Fiction.

North Carolina — Fiction.

Psychological fiction.

Mystery fiction.

Similar authors:

Michael Connelly

Kathleen George

Dennis Lehane

Laura Lippman

Cody McFadyen

Personal notes: Wow! This was a phenomenal book with lots of twists and turns to keep readers guessing.  The story also had wonderful closure without being at all sugar coated.  I definitely plan to read more of John Hart’s works.

Other (diversity, themes, websites): Diversity – twins, physically challenged boy, mentally challenged Black man

This book won the 2009 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller.

John Hart’s website

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