Last Words

Last WordsLast Words by Michael Koryta
Genres: Crime, Mystery, Suspense
Published by Little Brown & Co on August 18, 2015
Pages: 448
Also by this author: Rise the Dark

 

Mark Novak knew he was on a fool’s errand, but also accepted some responsibility for his exile. While searching for answers to his wife’s murder, he crossed some lines that he never should have approached and those decisions led to his current investigation of a 10 year old cold case in Garrison, Indiana. As an investigator for Innocence Incorporated, Mark’s job is to help death row inmates; it certainly isn’t trying to help the primary suspect in Sarah Martin’s murder remember if he actually killed her. However, needing to be away from an impending discussion about his future employment, Mark is assigned the case—a case his employer has no intention of pursuing. But once in Indiana, things take an unexpected turn and what was once an impersonal excuse to be away from a board meeting, suddenly becomes very personal. With few options but to face those opposing his involvement in Sarah’s case, Mark must unravel the mystery of the unstable Ridley Barnes and the secrets buried in Trapdoor Caverns. In Michael Koryta’s signature style of complex story, intense suspense, and layer upon layer of mystery, Last Words is currently my favorite novel of 2015.

Without a doubt, Michael Koryta writes the type of books that I love to read—complex stories with several layers of mystery.

Without a doubt, Michael Koryta writes the type of books that I love to read—complex stories with several layers of mystery. In Last Words, the various story lines work together beautifully to create an intriguing past for the reader to discover and the present for them to walk through. The different characters have depth and originality. No one is evil for the sake of being evil, neither is someone wholly good without the baggage that makes them realistic. The characters and story fit together, they work together, and the end result is a rich, compelling story that is very difficult to set aside.

I’ve always been impressed with the feel of Michael’s books. There is little doubt that he does a great deal of research on each setting. Whether it’s a big cat refuge, the Montana wilderness, or in this case an unsettling cave, there is a lot of thought and creativity put into each setting to make it feel like the reader is actually there. When reading Last Words, it is not difficult to imagine and feel the cold, damp interior or the darkness or the claustrophobia of the passages within Trapdoor. There is truly a personality to the setting and it lends credibility to the overall story.

When reading Last Words, it is not difficult to imagine and feel the cold, damp interior or the darkness or the claustrophobia of the passages within Trapdoor. There is truly a personality to the setting and it lends credibility to the overall story.

The mystery for Last Words is well concealed and perfectly paced. Add to the mystery, dubious characters and the result is a story in which nothing is certain and all is questioned. It was very late in the book before I got a good feel for who could maybe be trusted and who was most likely not such a good person. But even then, there was a healthy amount of doubt. The strength of the characters and their personalities contribute to the difficulty of unraveling Sarah’s murder.

While there is a significant ‘who dunit’ aspect, knowing this answer is not the sum of the book. It is a compelling part of the story for sure, but the journey with the characters is equally engaging. The suspense created by the setting and the past meeting the present, combined with the characters, makes this an appealing story on many levels. Knowing the ending to Sarah’s story doesn’t diminish the overarching suspense or the entertainment value inherent in the book. I could immediately start this story again and enjoy it just as much the second time around. Considering I rarely re-read, that’s a pretty good endorsement of how very good Last Words is.

Knowing the ending to Sarah’s story doesn’t diminish the overarching suspense or the entertainment value inherent in the book. I could immediately start this story again and enjoy it just as much the second time around.

It’s a good thing that Mark is a likeable character. According to the teaser at the end of this book, he’s going to be back for another one, Echoes. As I do every year, I look forward to Michael’s next book. There are few authors like him who consistently produce high quality, thoroughly engaging novels. For readers who want to be entertained, but also want nice depth to their stories, look no further than Last Words.

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