P D Dawson
The Last by Hanna Jameson (Book Review)
Updated: Apr 20, 2019
Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn't ignored Nadia's last message.
Twenty people remain in Jon's hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.
Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It's clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.
As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?
I'll just jump right in and say that I liked it, but I didn't love it. The premise was great, a hotel in, supposedly, the middle of nowhere, but I didn't particularly like the characters. Some of the characters melded into one and I almost didn't care who was saying what. There are moments of friction between them, but things never really take off. There were also many avenues unexplored in the book for me, for example, the mystery of a young girl murdered in the hotel and left in the water tank did seem like a preliminary part of the story that was never sufficiently explored, and it failed to rack up extra tension as there was never any real suspicion on the people left in the hotel, but rather the idea that the person/s responsible must have already left the hotel. If people were stuck in the hotel due to bad weather rather than nuclear war, and no one could reach them, and there was a nervous energy racked up about who might have done it, that's one thing, but if you set it up in a world most likely destroyed by nuclear war anyway, it loses its impetus and there was never any real suspicion placed on anyone anyway. An Agatha Christie story this is not, so I don't know why the book's blurb suggests it might be.
Where it does succeed is in its readability. Jameson's writing does create great imagery and atmosphere, and the pacing was well done, even though some people say it was a little slow, but I think that was the general idea of it. Life for these people trapped in the hotel would have been slow and boring, I just wished there was a greater feeling of dread in the characters in the beginning, either through fear that there might be a murderer among them, or that someone might be coming for them. There are hints of danger in the book's last third, but by then it's too late to be sufficiently explored. I did however like the diary style of the storytelling which gave an idea of how things changed as time went by, and that was perfect for this kind of story.
By the end, I was satisfied by the story, if not a little frustrated by the things unexplored and the failure to really rack up the tension suggested at the beginning. I think it tried to be too many things at once, murder mystery, end of the world dystopia etc, but in the end, I have to give it some kudos for being entertaining throughout even with these flaws.