Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Violent, Poetic and Heartbreaking

John Hart
Macmillan Audio, Minotaur Books
January 2009

Twelve-year-old Johnny Merrimon's life and family have fallen apart in the year since the abduction of his twin sister, Alyssa. They know that it was an abduction because there was a witness. His father, unable to deal with his wife's blame over Alyssa's disappearance, left the family and has not been heard from since. His mother has descended into a fog of drugs and alcohol and fallen into a violently abusive relationship with the town's richest man. Johnny is left to fend for himself, doing the cooking and cleaning that gets done. His main mission, however, is to find his sister and somehow put his family back together. There are no limits to what Johnny is willing to do to find his sister. The ripples of the abduction have touched on other families as well in the small North Carolina town. The detective in charge of the case, Hunt, is obsessed both by the case and Johnny's mother, Catherine. Hunt's wife has left him and his son has changed completely, becoming distant and sullen. As the novel unfolds, long-hidden secrets come to light.

It took me years to get to this book; it has been sitting in my audible library since it was released. I started it several times but honestly, child abduction and parental abandonment are two circumstances that push all my buttons. I have read all of John Hart's books and loved them to a greater or lesser degree but somehow kept putting this one off. When I finally decided it was time, and past time, I was blown away by the poetry of John Hart's prose and the authenticity of the location and characters. I grew up in Eastern North Carolina myself, so I know the territory and the people, along with the small town pettiness that ends up somehow blaming the victims rather than the perpetrators. That pettiness, of course, is not confined to the South or North Carolina.

The Last Child is a great crime novel, a little slow to start but once it hits its' stride it never lets up. It is meticulously plotted and full of surprises. I wavered about the rating because I felt that some of the circumstances were just a shade contrived and entirely too coincidental. I wasn't all that bothered while listening to the book, so I think I have to go with 5 Stars. The audio edition is superbly narrated by Scott Sowers and I highly recommend it.

RATING- 5 Stars

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