The Last Child

There are times when I watch action figures in action and I think, “If that were me, I would just roll over and give up.”  What is it that keeps these people going forward when others would retreat–gumption?  Johnny Merrimon has gumption.

In John Hart’s The Last Child, we meet Johnny one year after his twin sister has been kidnapped.  In that year, Johnny’s father has abandoned the family, his mother has fallen into a depressed state and added an abusive boyfriend, and Johnny has become obsessed with uncovering the truth behind the disappearance of his sister.

Also obsessed with this case is Detective Clyde Lafayette, the man who promised the Merrimon family that he would solve this mystery.  Needless to say, that has not worked out as planned and Lafayette’s own family is shattering as he cannot lay aside the notes and photographs dealing with Alyssa’s kidnapping.

As this book begins, another girl goes missing.  This event will throw all the characters who agonized over Alyssa together again and things do not go well.  This is a very tough book to read with tragic occurrences that lead to a resolution that some will find positive and others negative.

Mystery MonthWhat makes this book so amazing is the gumption of the lead character.  A thirteen-year-old boy, Johnny refuses to bow down to any institution that stands in the way of his goal of recovering his sister.  He is a resilient character who will create enough questions for a book discussion to fill any slot it is scheduled.

Set in the imaginary Raven County, North Carolina, that John Hart has imagined, it continues the examination of that region that earned Hart an Edgar Award for Best Novel of the Year for the previously released Down River.  This novel should have the same impact as that effort.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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