Today I am sharing my thoughts on The Last Party, the brand new novel from Clare Mackintosh. I’ve really enjoyed all of the authors previous books and was intrigued to see her turning her hand from psychological thrillers to a police thriller. My thanks to publisher Sphere for the advance copy for review. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.
His lakeside holiday homes are a success, and he’s generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours. This will be the party to end all parties.
But not everyone is there to celebrate. By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.
On New Year’s Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.
The tiny community is her home, so the suspects are her neighbours, friends and family – and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.
With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn’t who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.
In a village with this many secrets, a murder is just the beginning.
Now, if you listen to local legend, it is Llyn Drych’s dragon that you need to be mindful of, but, having just finished reading The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh, I’d say that, as a visitor to new opened resort, The Shore, a mythical dragon is the last thing you need to be nervous about. And with Cwm Coed’s traditional New Year’s Day swim interrupted in a very dramatic fashion, it will take some nifty marketing to enhance the allure of the resort. One of The Shore’s owners is found floating in the lake, local ‘celebrity’, Rhys Lloyd, and I didn’t for one minute think that Y Ddraig Goch was responsible.
This book both is and isn’t your typical Police thriller. It is, in as much as we have two central characters, Ffion Morgan and Leo Brady, the two police officers who have been been tasked with investigating Lloyd’s murder. Ffion is the local Detective, born and bred in Cwm Coed, Leo her English counterpart, drafted in from Chester’s Major Crime unit because, technically, Lloyd was murdered on the English side of the lake. Possibly. It’s fair to say that our introduction to the pair is somewhat unique, but something that brings a smile to your face. It also puts the pair on somewhat of an awkward footing and seeing them navigate those early awkward moments really did make me chuckle. It adds a tension to the investigation at times, but also adds to the chemistry of a pair who, on the face of it, seem to be very chalk and cheese. It’s less meet-cute, than meet-drunk, but it’s New Year. Who are we to judge?
Where it is less ‘typical’ when it comes to the police procedural aspects, it is really down to the character of Ffion Morgan. She isn’t necessarily the easiest person to get to know or like. She’s very forthright, and at times quite cagey, so it was hard to know whether to fully trust her. It’s not just that her personality and her attitude, especially towards Leo, is sometimes quite brusque, but some of her actions cast more than a little suspicion her way, and her ties to the local community did make me wonder just what she was up to at times. It certainly spiced things up a bit, and got the cogs whirring, trying to second guess her own motivations. Ultimately I did grow to like her, perhaps because she was somewhat atypical of most police based characters. Kind of like a Welsh Hamish Macbeth. Straight but sharp as a tack too.
Leo was a very different kind of character, more open and quite easy to get to like although, much like Ffion, there were times I wished he had shown more of a backbone. He has a complicated personal life and, if it’s possible, a more complicated professional one too. It’s fair to say his boss was a complete idiot and a throw back to the very worst of policing. But his focus on the job was unwavering, even when the suspicion fell upon his partner.
There are no end of suspects when it comes to the murder, and the more we delve into the investigation, the clearer it becomes that the victim’s personality left a lot to be desired. In fact, by the end of the book, it was hard to find someone who didn’t have a motive to kill him. It meant that trying to work out who the ultimate killer was proved to be very difficult and the mystery remained right until the end of the book. Each time we, and the detectives, thought they had their perp, a new piece of evidence was uncovered that cast new light on the investigation and what seemed obvious, suddenly seemed much less so. I liked this aspect of the book, the way it forced you to think outside of the box and if you really want to work out what is what, and who killed Rhys Lloyd, then the clues are all there but you really will have to pay attention.
The story is told through multiple timelines, with a large proportion of the book taking readers through the main investigation. Interspersed amongst this are scenes from various times in the past, from the previous summer, Christmas and the preparations for that fateful New Year’s Eve party. The scenes from the past are not told in a linear fashion, but they are easy to keep track of and the back and forth does help to ensure that the mystery is maintained. It’s a very skilful narrative style that informs readers just enough at just the right moments in time to keep the suspense and tension finely balanced and the intrigue rolling right to the end.
As for that ending … It was actually very fitting and perhaps a touch surprising. Did it leave me satisfied – honestly, I’m not sure but it made sense for this story. If this is to be a series, I’ll be very interested to see how it feeds into future stories. A recommended read for fans of the author and of suspect laden police thrillers.
About the Author
Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of five Sunday Times bestselling novels. Translated into forty languages, her books have sold more than two million copies worldwide, have been New York Times and international bestsellers and have spent a combined total of 64 weeks in the Sunday Times bestseller chart. Clare lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.