THE LAST CHILD is the story of 13 year-old Johnny Merrimon who is still trying to deal with the abduction, a year earlier, of his twin sister. Since Alyssa’s disappearance, the life that Johnny had known is nothing but a distant memory. As if it weren’t hard enough to lose his sister, the tragedy also proved to be too much for his parents. His father walked out and his mother retreated into herself, not able to function and leaving only a shell of the woman she used to be.
Johnny and his mother aren’t the only ones who are tortured by Alyssa’s disappearance. Detective Clyde Hunt, the lead investigator on her case hasn’t been able to let go either. With little to go on and no hard evidence, Detective Hunt has allowed the case to take over his personal life and has cast a shadow of doubt on his professional career. His wife has left him, his son hates him and he’s always being scrutinized by his superiors at work.
Feeling that everyone has given up, Johnny vows that he will not stop until he either finds Alyssa or someone who knows what happened. With his mom out of it most of the time, he is left unsupervised and spends much of his time scouring for information on known pedophiles hoping to find some answers. Detective Hunt keeps a distant watch over Johnny, partly out of guilt and partly out of genuine admiration for the boy. When another girl goes missing, Johnny is in the middle of it, which makes him more determined than ever to keep looking for answers. Even when those answers point to the most unlikely people.
John Hart weaves a very realistic tale of mystery and suspense that I really enjoyed. This story has a very compelling plot and constantly leaves you asking questions. Just when you think you may have something figured out, something or someone else enters the picture and the questions begin again. I found that the more I read, the faster the pages were turning.
I love when a story unfolds without predictability and that is what John Hart has accomplished here. There’s more to this story than a simple abduction and the subsequent crumbling of a family. It’s also more than just a cop feeling guilty over a lost child. Even the title of the book has deeper meaning than what it appears. Hart reveals all of it masterfully.
At first I did think Johnny’s ventures into the dangerous world of pedophilia were stretched a bit, but I quickly changed my thinking. If I was a resourceful, determined boy, as Johnny is, and was left to fend for myself, and wanted answers as badly as he does, there’s no doubt I would do what I felt I had to do. It’s common knowledge that we all think we’re invincible when we’re young.
THE LAST CHILD is the first John Hart novel I’ve read, even though I do own DOWN RIVER, for which he won the Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2008. I don’t know why I have put off reading DOWN RIVER, but I am looking forward to it even more now and have moved it to the top of my TBR pile.
Author: John Hart
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Published: May 12, 2009
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars