Today I am sharing my thoughts on The Last Girl To Die, the brand new novel from Helen Fields. I really enjoy the author’s work so was delighted to be granted an early copy on NetGalley by Publisher Avon. Here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
In search of a new life, seventeen-year-old Adriana Clark’s family moves to the ancient, ocean-battered Isle of Mull, far off the coast of Scotland. Then she goes missing. Faced with hostile locals and indifferent police, her desperate parents turn to private investigator Sadie Levesque.
Sadie is the best at what she does. But when she finds Adriana’s body in a cliffside cave, a seaweed crown carefully arranged on her head, she knows she’s dealing with something she’s never encountered before.
The deeper she digs into the island’s secrets, the closer danger creeps – and the more urgent her quest to find the killer grows. Because what if Adriana is not the last girl to die?
I love a dark, twisty, mystery laden thriller and, with The Last Girl To Die, Helen Fields has delivered just that. Brooding and atmospheric, there is a real sense of danger and almost resignation that underpins the narrative from the very beginning right through to the final, almost mystical conclusion.
This is not your ordinary murder mystery and it’s all the better for it. Set on the Scottish island of Mull, the story taps into myth and legend and long held belief of the history of the island which is set to lead to some absolutely devastating consequences. Drawn to the island to investigate the disappearance of an American teenager, Sadie Levesque is a Private Investigator used to seeing the worst and best of people, but who is perhaps still unprepared for what she is about to find on the island. Suspicion and animosity – and that’s just from the local police force. What the islanders will make of her intervention in their business … well that is somewhat of a mixed bag too.
I love that this story blends all the hallmarks of your classic PI investigation with something a little more mystical and ethereal. On the face of it we have a missing person investigation that takes a dark and possibly predictable turn. Delving back into the history of the island, Sadie learns that this case may not be so unique, and that there are many things about Mull that have the capacity to surprise and upend any firm beliefs she may have about the many characters she meets.
It is one of those stories where it is hard to know who to trust, where conspiracy seems to be around every corner, and even the clients do not appear to be entirely honest. It gets those spider senses tingling and I found myself second guessing the motives of nearly everyone that Sadie met, even, and maybe especially, the police. A conspiracy of silence is perhaps the best way to put it, but as to what people were hiding and why it was very hard to gauge. The author kept motives hidden right until the critical point, leading us as readers down blind alleys, or into darkened dead ended caves as would serve the setting better.
Sadie was a character I warmed to quickly even though she was occasionally aloof, but seeing and hearing the story through her eyes gave us a clear feeling of how it was to be an outsider in such a close knit community. There was one other narrator in the book, an unexpected one at that, but one who held a very unique perspective on the lives, history and behaviour of the inhabitants of Mull. It is a somewhat unique point of view, but it really did fit the style of the story and helped to enhance the atmospheric and sometimes claustrophobic tone.
The setting of Mull was absolutely perfect, although I’’m sure the island and it’s inhabitants are far more welcoming than may have appeared on these pages. Artistic licence in full flow here. But that whole sense of the isolation, of being cut off from the mainland and being beholden to the tides and the weather if ever in need of real help, that whole closeted community vibe and the natural suspicion of outsiders, is something that could only have worked on an island. And the importance of myths and legends in forming the story are really helped by this rugged and sometimes unforgiving landscape.
The book is, beneath everything, a celebration of the strength of spirit of the women of the island, and the overwhelming sense of masculinity and misogyny that still prevails in many communities. That image of the menfolk storming with pitchforks to keep their women safe popped into my head so many times and yet, ironically, it is more often than not, the menfolk that women need to fear. Whether that turns out to be the case in this story … well you’ll have to read to find out. Nothing is ever quite that straight forward.
Cleverly plotted and enthralling, this is the kind of story that really captures the imagination, a mix of history, modernity and maybe even mysticism in one neat package.
About the Author
An international and Amazon #1 best-selling author, Helen is a former criminal and family law barrister. Every book in the Callanach series has claimed an Amazon #1 bestseller flag. The last book in the series, ‘Perfect Kill’ was longlisted for the Crime Writers Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger in 2020, and others have been longlisted for the McIlvanney Prize, Scottish crime novel of the year. Helen also writes as HS Chandler, and has released legal thriller ‘Degrees of Guilt’. Her audio book ‘Perfect Crime’ knocked Michelle Obama off the #1 spot. In 2020 Perfect Remains was shortlisted for the Bronze Bat, Dutch debut crime novel of the year. Now translated into 16 languages, and also selling in the USA, Canada & Australasia, Helen’s books have won global recognition. She currently commutes between West Sussex, Scotland and California. She lives with her husband and three children.
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