Point Last Seen
reviewed by Maureen Carden
“On nights like these, when the storms brew and the fog waits, lost souls visit Gothic and sometimes….they stay.”
Dodd’s latest series are almost always set along a wild and stunning Pacific coastline, usually with matching wild weather. Point Last Seen (Last Seen in Gothic) is no exception. Set in the peculiar little town of Gothic, The City of Lost Souls is found on Big Sur.
One day, despite desperately needing sleep after finishing his latest sculpture, Adam Ramsdell can not resist the siren call of the Pacific Ocean. Whether the dark waters are calling to him or a local seer’s prediction, he climbs down the cliffs to a local beach in search of something. His death, pieces of shipwrecks he uses in his sculptures, or peace from his demons? “…and when he set foot on the white sand he smelled sea salt and loneliness.”
On this day these particular beach currents oblige him by bringing in a dead woman (not “mostly dead”). When Adam slings the woman over his shoulder she revives, regurgitating half of the Pacific. The woman is hypothermic, grievously battered, and has deep strangulation marks.
The formerly dead woman (not “mostly dead”) can’t remember anything other than part of her name, Elle, and an overwhelming terror of a dark figure of the man who tried to kill her. It was the Pacific that finally succeeded, albeit for only a short time. Any time Elle falls asleep, the screams that were suppressed during her strangulation finally escape unnerving anyone who can hear them.
Elle has arrived at an interesting time for Gothic; there is the upcoming Gothic Spring Psychic Festival (GSPF) which hopefully will draw large crowds of people. Gothic needs those people as the Pacific Coast Highway has once again been destroyed in the ancient collusion between mountains and ocean. Tourists have been few and far between with only one road into town.
Gothic needs those tourist bucks so badly that town leaders ask Adam to demonstrate his sword fighting skills with the mutual agreement that he stays ten feet away from all tourists. Oh, Dodd is so sneaky with her snark.
Dodd loves word play. Gothic’s business names are a great example; Firm Bun Bakery, Running With Scissors Needlework and Quilting, and Hair on Your Chest Coffee Shop.
Not only does Dodd like clever word play, she likes to put words together for beauty’s sake. “…Yeah, I’ll bet the wind caught that laughter and carried it up the hill to catch on the olive trees where it will linger, whispering in the gray green leaves.”
In Point Last Seen, as in several of Dodd’s other books, the main characters are almost secondary to the secondary characters. I hope that makes sense. Not to forget Adam and Elle, as they both have interesting dark pasts or dark futures; but with continuation of this series one hopes that Madame Rune and the other denizens of Gothic will continue to have a strong and droll presence.
The same with her aforementioned settings, they matter; the settings will always help drive the story. Actually her narratives, characters, and settings all take turns at the wheel.
The several threads of Point Last Seen, all come to a head during the Psychic festival. Dodd keeps the lines all clear and suspenseful I describe the beauty and humor of this book, but make no mistake, there is a lot of darkness, both criminal and emotional.
This is a terrific, entertaining book; and will keep you wondering and guessing.