“ Author: John Hart / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 04 March 2010 / Genre: Crime & Thriller / Subcategory: Thriller / Suspense General / Publisher: John Murray General Publishing Division / Title: The Last Child / ISBN 13: 9780719522215 / ISBN 10: 0719522215 / Alternative EAN: 9780312359324 „
Quite simply the best book I've read in years! I'm notorious for only getting half way through a book before either getting bored or starting another, but this one kept my attention and had me reading into the wee small hours. The story follows a young boy called Johnny and his hunt to find his sister who has gone missing - I don't want to get too far into the plot and start giving bits away, but this book is amazing for so many reasons; the descriptions of small town America made me feel like I could smell Johnny's house, it's a thriller that gets you from the beginning and doesn't take ages to get going like so many and the biggest plus point for me is that you can't guess the twists and turns in the plot. Usually, whenever a new character is mentioned it's all too easy to realise that they're the culprit etc in crime/thriller books but this one kept me guessing on every plot until the end. It's rare that I read a book and find myself thinking about the characters even when I'm not reading!Am now lending it to everyone I know!
Let me tell you something about my dad. He is the kind of person who cannot sit still for any length of time, cannot sit and watch tv for too long without getting bored and can be extremely impatient! For his 58th birthday last month, I bought him a gift voucher for Waterstones, the only thing I could think of getting him as he is extremely fussy when it comes to books. Because of this, he must spend an extortionate amount on books a month which, after reading one chapter, he tosses to one side and proclaims they were rubbish and therefore I've always avoided buying him books.
So when my dad tells me that he has read a brilliant book and I must read it straight away, Im usually so shocked and intruiged that I put it straight to the top of my 'to read' list. Of course it doesn't meant to say that I'll love the book - I've both loved books he has recommended to me ("The Book Thief" being one which is still one of my favourite books) and hated his choices (quite a few actually as he is in to Tudor history which bores the life out of me). Equally its been hit and miss when I've recommended books to him.
Still, his latest recommendation, "The Last Child" by John Hart had my interest piqued more than most as it seemed like an unusual choice for my dad. My mum reads a lot of crime thriller and similar books and Ill occassionally pick one up, but I never thought it was my dads kinda thing at all!
This story is about a 13 year old boy called Johnny Merrimon, who, up until a year before had a perfect life. He had loving parents, a good home and a twin sister called Alyssa. However, a year ago to the day when we begin the story, Alyssa was abducted on the way home from the library. Her body was never found and slowly Johnny's perfect life came crumbling down; his dad couldn't cope with the guilt and left, his mother turned to alcohol and drugs to see her through and picked up a nasty vicious and controlling boyfriend to boot. Determined Johnny still searches for his sister a year on; his only ally is his best friend and the original Detective, Clive Hunt, from the case. Detective Hunt has devoted an entire year to Alyssa's case and although it has also ruined his life, he cannot seem to let it go. So when another girl goes missing and Johnny tells him he thinks someone Is killing people who know where Alyssa is hidden, Hunt is more determined than ever to solve the case.
I had a little sense of déjà vu when reading this book, as it is now the third book I've had in recent months where the main character has been a young boy. It is also the second book where the young boy has had a rather crappy home life and is searching for the body of a relative. The last book I read with the same scenario was "Blacklands" by Belinda Bauer. Swap the Blacklands in England for North Carolina, America and a missing uncle for a missing sister and it is really quite asimilar story. However, as much as I liked "Blacklands", and its main character, I found I fell in love with little Johnny Merriman in this book. His determination and intelligent nature was extremely appealing and I loved the way he was constantly looking out for his mother. Throughout the story, I felt his emotions were described perfectly, and I empathised with his heart break, sadness and pain as well as his drive to find the truth.
What appears to be a fairly straightforward plot turns out to be fairly intricate, with other characters adding more depths to the story. There is of course Johnny who it is impossible to dislike and will on to his goal, his best friend Jack who literally is a bit of a jack the lad, Detective Hunt who although very likable, was also extremely frustrating to read about due to his total inability to realise when he should look after his family and forget the case and a stranger who thinks he gets messages from God. Most of all, Hart has created a character that is so despicable that I could feel myself boiling with anger every time his character came into a chapter. This character which incited so much hate in me was Ken, Johnny's mothers boyfriend. Ken is a very rich man, well known and apparently well respected in their town - he is also someone not to be messed with, having fingers in all sorts of pies, he always seems to come out smelling of roses. Not so bad you say, but he also is a complete control freak, abusing Johnny's mum, in every way possible and beating Johnny into the bargain. Hart has created this character in such a way that he really gets under your skin - if an author has a the power to do that he is a good author indeed in my opinion! All of this makes extremely entertaining reading
Overall Im impressed with my dads recommendation. John Hart is not an author I have tried before, but after looking into his biography a little bit more I see he is no newbie to producing top quality books having previously been sucessful with Edgar Award winning "Down River" which was also a New York Times Bestseller and also written "King of Lies" which has also received good reviews from what I've read. This book had all the right criteria for me; suspensful, intricate and skillfull plot detail and likeable characters. If John Hart's other books cross my path in future I wouldn't hesitate in picking one up.