The first novel I’ve read by John Hart. A mesmerizing thriller with memorable characters and an intelligent, thought-provoking plot,”The last child” is one of the best books I’ve read in awhile and bodes well for my 2011 reading.
The protagonist is 13 year-old Johnny Merrimon. Johnny’s life was idyllic until his twin sister Alyssa went missing a year ago. Shortly after, his father (whom his mother blamed) also disappears from Johnny’s life. His mother, weak, depressed and financially dependent, turns to a corrupt local businessman for the roof over their heads. She exchanges sexual favors with him for the house and food and due to his influence becomes a drug user. Johnny becomes the adult in the family as his mother’s despondence and weakness make it difficult for her to recover.
With childhood a distant memory, Johnny now makes it his mission in life to explore the dark side of his North Carolina hometown to try to find who took his sister.
The policeman in charge of Alyssa’s case, Clyde Hunt, has also never let up trying to find Alyssa’s abductor. A single father, he neglects his own child to work on the case that has become his obsession. His motives are complicated. He feels that he should have done more at the time, he has a deep respect and admiration for Johnny and he has longings for Johnny’s mother that have survived since they were in high school together…
When another girl goes missing, the failures of the past year’s search make Hunt even more determined to crack this new case thinking that maybe, the missing girl will also lead him to Alyssa.
Both heartrending and memorable, Johnny’s story will appeal to all who enjoy a literary thriller. Highly recommended. Winner of The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger 2009