Title: Last to Die
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Narrator: Tanya Eby
Publisher: Brilliance Audiobooks
Read: May 05-18, 2013
For the second time in his short life, Teddy Clock has survived a massacre. Two years ago, he barely escaped when his entire family was slaughtered. Now, at fourteen, in a hideous echo of the past, Teddy is the lone survivor of his foster family's mass murder. Orphaned once more, the traumatized teenager has nowhere to turn ? until the Boston PD puts Detective Jane Rizzoli on the case. Determined to protect this young man, Jane discovers that what seemed like a coincidence is instead just one horrifying part of a relentless killer's merciless mission. Jane spirits Teddy to the exclusive Evensong boarding school, a sanctuary where young victims of violent crime learn the secrets and skills of survival in a dangerous world. But even behind locked gates, and surrounded by acres of sheltering Maine wilderness, Jane fears that Evensong's mysterious benefactors aren't the only ones watching. When strange blood-splattered dolls are found dangling from a tree, Jane knows that her instincts are dead on. And when she learns of Will Yablonski and Claire Ward, students whose tragic pasts bear a shocking resemblance to Teddy?s, it becomes chillingly clear that a circling predator has more than one victim in mind. Joining forces with her trusted partner, medical examiner Maura Isles, Jane is determined to keep these orphans safe from harm. But an unspeakable secret dooms the children's fate ? unless Jane and Maura can finally put an end to an obsessed killer's twisted quest.
Tess Gerritsen is one of my favourite thriller authors, and I was very excited to lay my hands on the audiobook version of Last to Die, her latest work and the 10th instalment in the Rizzoli and Isles series.
Building on the events in Ice Cold, the novel starts with Maura Isles visiting Evensong, an exclusive boarding school run by the mysterious Mephisto Society and located in the deep forests of Maine, where Julian Perkins (“Rat”) has been living since their shared ordeal in the mountains over a year ago.
In the meantime, Jane Rizzoli is being called to the homicide of an entire family, with only their foster child, Teddy Clock, surviving the massacre. Looking into Teddy’s history, Jane is shocked to hear that Teddy’s parents and siblings have also died under mysterious circumstances. After another attempt on the lives of his temporary foster family, Jane realises that the boy is in grave danger and transfers him to Evensong in the cover of night to get him out of the line of fire.
When Jane and Maura discover that two of Evensong’s other pupils share similar fates to Teddy, that of losing both their birth families as well as their foster parents to violent crimes, they suspect a connection between the brutal attacks. As the investigation uncovers some shared threads between the children’s families, it also becomes apparent that someone still wants them dead – and that Evensong may not be able to protect them.
Last to Die shows all the hallmarks of an accomplished thriller writer who knows how to construct a clever plot and escalate the tension without giving too much away too soon. As Rizzoli’s investigation is uncovering startling coincidences, the reader is presented with enough clues and red herrings to come up with one’s own conclusions, which are finally totally blown out of the water by a very clever and surprising twist at the end. There were a few loose ends I would have liked explained, but maybe this was due to missing clues on my part rather than an omittance by the author – it is a small gripe which did not spoil my reading pleasure.
I loved the different setting of Last to Die – Evensong, the exclusive and somewhat mysterious boarding school set in a castle in a remote wilderness area of Maine, had a certain Hogwarts feel about it, down to its eccentric teachers and unusual teaching subjects, such as archery and the study of poisonous plants. Despite all pupils sharing the common fate of having been touched by violent crime, the school sounded like an adventurer’s dream come true! Being isolated from the outside world allowed Gerritsen to give the setting its own unique character and atmosphere, and added much to the suspense as it became apparent that evil had already invaded the school grounds.
Introducing teenage protagonists – Teddy Clock, Will Yablonski and Claire Ward – presented another storyline apart from the actual crime investigation, which I found quite refreshing and engaging and which offered a chance to emotionally connect with the victims. After having “bonded” with Rat through reading about his and Maura’s ordeal in Ice cold, I relished the chance to revisit this engaging character and to find out how he has fared. I am also happy to see Maura’s vulnerable side – in previous novels I have often found her to be a very cold and remote character, and have never been able to truly warm to her until reading Ice Cold. In this novel, we again see a tender side to the Queen of Death, her longing to love and be loved. Similarly, Jane’s family issues provided a bit of comic relief from the tension and added to character development. I am looking forward to reading more about these two characters in future novels!
Whilst I would recommend to at least read Ice Cold before picking up this book, it contains all the information required to follow the story and can be read as a stand-alone novel, even if some of the events refer to earlier volumes in the series. I particularly enjoy Gerritsen’s generosity in sharing her vast knowledge of forensic detail with the reader, which adds depth to the novel (and which I personally find fascinating).
As for the narration: Tanya Eby does a fine job as narrator, lending each character their own unique voice, which makes for easy listening. Last to Die added a lot of enjoyment to my daily commute and often still saw me sitting in my car in the driveway, unable to tear myself away. Highly recommended, especially for fans of Gerritsen’s earlier work.
This book forms part of my 2013 Audiobook Challenge.