Author – Hanna Jameson
Published – 31 January 2019
Genre – Dystopian thriller
I was a huge fan of Hanna Jameson’s debut – the dark crime thriller Something You Are; The Last is a departure in a number of ways but is no less thrilling. Set in a dystopian near future this is a contemporary thriller using the possibilities that a small leap in current events could create. This isn’t a genre that I read particularly often but the book called to mind both The Last Policeman series with its lead up to an apocalypse and Station Eleven which is set further post-apocalypse. The Last is somewhere between these, on the cusp of events as the realisation that the world is forever changed takes hold on a small group.
American professional historian Jon Keller is in a hotel in Switzerland, attending a convention, when the news breaks over breakfast that there has been a nuclear attack. Ever the professional Keller starts to record the events for posterity, or so that he can make amends with his wife who he left back in San Francisco.
A small group of survivors, a mixture of hotel staff and guests, remain at the hotel, the others having left despite the warnings that there is nothing outside for them. After the initial news reports the communications fail and the group needs to consider how they will survive. When they discover the body of a small child. Keller takes it upon himself to investigate
The hotel is enormous (thirteen floors and almost a thousand rooms) and set in an isolated location. Combine this with the very small group of survivors and this gives the setting a very eerie feeling. Needless to say that the pressure on the group begins to take its toll as some seek to place blame for the events leading up to the nuclear strike, suspicion mounts over the identity of the killer and tempers flare as resources run low.
Although narrated in a straightforward way, as the days pass there is an element of backstory which fills in details of some of the events that took place once the news of the attack started to spread as well as an explanation of Keller’s relationship with his wife. He’s not a particularly likeable character and as he works his way around the group ‘interviewing’ them it doesn’t increase his popularity. He is also putting his own spin on the situation in the unlikely event that he should be able to give the diary to his wife.
The crime aspect is an interesting one as it gives the sense of a locked room murder and the investigation is one with limited methods at Keller’s disposal. The book is dark and doesn’t ignore the fate of those who decide that they can’t face the future. There are some interesting twists and turns to the plot and a sense that there was some sort of fate or destiny which placed the particular people in the group. I’m not going to say anything about the ending as I want to avoid spoilers but look forward to talking to other readers about it at some point!
A complex story mixing a crime story, with events which are catastrophic but plausible. A great read to start off the year. Many thanks to the publisher for the netgalley.