I picked up a handful of books on Saturday, one of which was The Last Child, by John Hart. I was up early on Tuesday, and with 8 hours of travelling ahead of me (which, because of train delays, turned into 12), I read it in a day.
Hart’s thriller manages a difficult job of dealing with a sensitive subject (child abuse and abduction), whilst keeping the readers’ attention alive through a thirteen-year-old main protagonist – Johnny Merrimon. And he does so with great skill.
Johnny’s world has fallen apart since his twin sister’s abduction – his father has disappeared, his mother has fallen into a deep depression and he is untrusting of the police, who have failed to find Alyssa. It leaves him with only one avenue. Armed with a map, bike, and occasional help from his only friend, Jack, he stalks the town’s sex offenders and other miscreants. But he isn’t alone. Detective Clyde Hunt has never given up on his search for Alyssa, and his obsession is threatening both his relationship with his own son, and his job.
I had not come across John Hart previously, and was attracted by both the cover, and the printed badge proclaiming the book had won the CWA Ian Flemming Steel Dagger award in 2009. Bound to be a good read then?
I wasn’t disappointed. I don’t (ever) like to quote the Daily Mail, but I cannot agree more with their assessment printed on the back of the book: ‘Just once in a while a thriller comes along that makes you want to run out in the street and proclaim how good it is’. OK, I’m not running, but I am typing pretty quickly, and please consider this blog post a proclamation.
The Last Child is simply one of the best crime fiction novels I have read. Ever. I was tired when I finally got home late on Tuesday, but could never have been too tired to have not finished the book that day. It was that good.
The book also includes a character, Levi Freemantle, who reminded me a lot of John Coffey (Yes, boss, like the drink, only not spelled the same), one of Stephen King’s main characters in The Green Mile – even down to them both being portrayed as some sort of spiritual vessel. This was the only diversion from the book’s crime genre, but being a big Stephen King fan, one that didn’t affect my opinion at all. And whilst I’m thinking about it, the crow on the cover is also very ‘King-esque’.
Fantastic read. I am already a big John Hart fan.