Thomas & Mercer | 2018
Filed Under: A subway nightmare, and I’m not talking about Jared
I don’t know why I thought this was going to be a serial killer “thriller”… I mean, in some ways it is. There is a serial killer. And cops. And stuff is happening.
But, holy shit, this might be the most depressing crime fiction novel I’ve ever read. John Marrs are you OKAY? Blink twice! This just hit me dead centre in all my sad feels like a British episode of This Is Us or some shit.
I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I will say this: one of the main reasons I love crime fiction so much – besides the psychologically fascinating elements – is that the good guys win and the bad guys lose.
The world is shitty enough and bad guys seem to win a lot, especially lately. So, it’s nice to be able to immerse yourself in a world where the bad guy is going to get his just desserts, sooner or later. I love to know, no, I need to know, despite the overwhelming evidence around us, that good will triumph over evil.
And for that to not necessarily happen in a way that feels satisfying like it typically does with novels of this kind, is a bit of a punch in the gut.
Kudos to John Marrs for bringing everyone down, I guess.
In Her Last Move, DS Becca Vincent and Joe Russell are on a task force looking for a serial killer with ever-changing methods and an elusive motive, while dealing with their own personal issues. Her: an adopted daughter she has no time for and can’t connect to. And him: a missing sister whose proverbial ghost is coming between his marriage.
It took a while for me to get into this one because I found the writing protracted and a bit heavy-handed when it came to trying to explain the characters. Perhaps that’s because it’s a standalone novel. Perhaps it was to up the emotional reactions to the ending. I don’t know. But the flow just wasn’t as smooth or engaging as what I usually gravitate towards.
This criticism only applies to the personal side of the plot because the crimes and darker aspects of the novel seemed to take place off-page, almost like an afterthought – the reader is only told about them later. It didn’t feel as though these big, dramatic murders were given the right amount of attention or emotional relevance.
Typically, I’d like to see a balance between the two aspects of crime fiction – the personal and the grotesque. Beauty and the Beast, if you’re feeling fancy. Knowing what to pull back on and what to turn the volume up on is an art in and of itself.
This book focussed pretty heavily on the characters and their home lives, so there was a feeling of imbalance in the story. By the 50% mark, things started to pick up, but I still found the chapters too wordy and the POV of Dominic to be a little too self-indulgent, which became boring.
Overall, there was a very dark and emotionally heavy theme running through this book. Whether it was the personal circumstances of having a dead sister and raising her Downs Syndrome daughter, or how that sister died. An unstoppable degenerative disease, or the motive for the murders, which once revealed, had me feeling sorry for the killer – or at least sorry for the pain of losing someone you love.
And then there was the ending. Sure, it was a fucking serious boob punch of a shocker, but it was also depressing as all hell. I mean, honestly, I had to go back and read it again just to make sure that shit was real. It was a ‘that couldn’t actually be a two-headed sheep’ kind of double-take.
I did not leave this reading experience with any kind of satisfaction even though there were no loose threads in the end. Rather, I had a feeling of being down and mopey. Was there an ending and the killer was no longer killing? Yes. But it came with a side of that real-life “the bad guys always win” bullshit and I think it was just a little too real for me at this juncture in my life.
This was less of an escapist exercise, which I tend to use books for in general, and more of a baseball bat to the face of bad shit that makes the world suck most of the time. And I don’t think I liked that.
I get it. But I don’t like it.
A bad book? No. The killer was interesting, albeit occasionally annoying, and his motivation for his evil deeds was believable – it was tangible and brimming with emotions. But I found the important points that brought the whole story together so depressing that any suspense or thrills were lost on me.
I’ve heard good things about John Marrs so I’ll try another one of his books. But if they’re all going to be this fucking depressing again, I’m going to have to really do some book nerd soul-searching on whether or not I can handle such sad shit when I’m already drowning in bad news and anxiety every day of my life.
He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.
Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career – and she knows that it will make or break her. But how can she identify one face in a sea of thousands? With the help of Police Super Recogniser Joe Russell, she strives to catch a glimpse of the elusive murderer, but he’s watching her every move.
Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?
Book source: Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley in exchange for a review.