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The Last Child: A Novel Paperback – March 9, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
A year after 12-year-old Alyssa Merrimon disappeared on her way home from the library in an unnamed rural North Carolina town, her twin brother, Johnny, continues to search the town, street by street, even visiting the homes of known sex offenders, in this chilling novel from Edgar-winner Hart (Down River). Det. Clyde Hunt, the lead cop on Alyssa's case, keeps a watchful eye on Johnny and his mother, who has deteriorated since Alyssa's abduction and her husband's departure soon afterward. When a second girl is snatched, Johnny is even more determined to find his sister, convinced that the perpetrator is the same person who took Alyssa. But what he unearths is more sinister than anyone imagined, sending shock waves through the community and putting Johnny's own life in danger. Despite a tendency to dip into melodrama, Hart spins an impressively layered tale of broken families and secrets that can kill. 175,000 first printing; author tour. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Most critics sang the praises of Hart's third novel, a dark and violent edge-of-your-seat mystery that still manages to poignantly examine the ties between family and friends. Hart's ability to portray his characters as living, breathing individuals -- particularly Johnny, "an amalgam of Opie Taylor and Scout Finch with a hint of Huck Finn" (Raleigh News & Observer) -- and his acute assessment of human nature result in a horrifying, heartbreaking tale that steps up the suspense to agonizing levels. The sole voice of dissent, stalwart crime-reviewer Marilyn Stasio from the New York Times Book Review, faulted the writer's unoriginal characters and lackluster prose. But majority rules. Most readers will agree that The Last Child is "one of the best thrillers of the year" (Providence Journal). --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The book has many interesting characters, especially Clyde Hunt, the detective in charge of the case, and Johnny's best friend Jack. The chapters in the book alternate from action involving Johnny to Detective Hunt. This method enhances the suspense, because chapters frequently end with a mini cliffhanger.
If you like mysteries in general, you would probably like "The Last Child." Readers who can't bear to read about serial killers or animal cruelty should stay away from this book. Another thing that might not appeal to some readers is that the 13 year-old boy does many things that seem implausible. To me, Johnny's exploits were the basis for the appeal of the plot, which I thought I had figured out, but I didn't. Even the reason behind the title of the book was not clear until the end.
I became annoyed when too many coincidences and plot turns became repeatedly unbelieveable. As are many of the proposed characters in this book. Are adult cops this naive? To ask a criminal teenager to just wait for his father-cop to appear? Were all the women in the book victims? Do editors require some characters be super human? Did the thirteen year olds driving all around in cars ever think to get the poor guy Freemantle to a hospital? Or was the back story more important than common sense? Or maybe the boys were distracted by the overdone trite crow symbolism? The lead character Johnny is the most incredible: he performs beyond Superman with little effort. Heroes need some semblance to real people. But I guess that is the point: these aren't characters but they are caricatures.
And as he has done previously, Mr. Hart interjects his author's superfluous viewpoint message that no good religion or God exists. Been there and heard that point in his previous novels.
Yet, I read the book quickly and enjoyed the flow and movement to an exciting conclusion. Go figure. But with so many caricatures and coincidences, I was ultimately disappointed. I am surprised that the Edgar Award judges thought this was the best mystery novel. Perhaps there is a more accurate award group to evaluate all the new mysteries. I should have learned when the Edgar group awarded Tanya French recognition for her first novel (that didn't bother to solve the crime) that the Edgar Award has lost some credibility.
A sadness in life is unrealized talent. Mr. Hart could have written a wonderful book. Clearly facile with words and encompassing an interesting action flow, he created a page turner. Talent is not enough to produce top results and "The Last Child" may be the last of Mr. Hart's books that I will read.
One day after ditching school, Johnny and Jack are hanging when they witness a murder. Now things start to get interesting. Johnny’s mom is manipulated by a powerful, rich, abusive man that keeps her supplied with drugs and alcohol since she is I meltdown mode. Because Johnny is convinced one of the local child predators is involved with the disappearance of his sister, he is out spying on them, covering the county’s terrain, and acting on any leads. He reaches into ancient mysticism for strength and perseverance. However, he not alone because Detective Hunt has the same motive especially when a classmate of Johnny’s is abducted. Detective Hunt has a soft spot for Johnny and tries to keep him safe knowing what he is up to.
Chapter-to-chapter you jump from one character to another character, with my preference being a story that flows from chapter-to-chapter rather than jump around. This story has dark disturbing events, with complex characters in terrifying situations. I was kept guessing, though, who committed all the murders until the end. You will see how much a parent loves a child, what friendship means, and how things happen for a reason.