The Last One Home
Victoria Helen Stone
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
Lauren Abrams spent the early part of her childhood growing up with her single mother Donna, constantly moving from one run-down apartment to another as her mother worked in a string of dead-end jobs.
Before she was born, Lauren’s father, Michael, a married man, had been convicted of murdering a young woman, partly as a result as testimony by Donna at his trial. However, when Lauren was a teenager, her father was exonerated and freed. Lauren finally got to meet him and his mother Elizabeth (her grandmother) and spend time with them at the family ranch in the hills outside Sacramento.
Not being able to forgive her mother for lying, Lauren went to live with her father and cut Donna out of her life. After college, with her father remarried and starting a new family, Lauren moved to LA where she had a nice apartment and work as a freelance graphic designer. Now with her grandmother moving to a nursing home following a stroke, Lauren has moved back to the ranch and agreed to buy it from her grandmother. After all, she’s always loved her visits there and can do her graphic design work anywhere.
So, the mystery here is why did Donna lie in court all those years ago when she was pregnant with Lauren? Who was the young woman killed and why did Donna implicate Michael?
The mystery is unravelled from two points of view: Donna’s when she was pregnant with Lauren in 1985, and Lauren’s in the current time as she starts renovating the house and yearns for her recent ex, a self-centred man left behind in LA. Despite their different personalities, Donna fierce and feisty, Lauren, indecisive and unsure, the women are more alike than they realise, both gullible when it comes to believing flaky men.
It’s best to go into this not expecting a fast-paced thriller, as instead it’s a slow burner of a domestic suspense novel. The Last One Home takes its time to set the scene for the twists and revelations that will come in the last chapters of the book. The drama is in fact fairly flat for at least three quarters of the book and would have benefitted from a little more action to spice up the suspense (something the author has a talent for). There is a subplot involving a serial killer that could have been more prominent to add some intensity. However, the ending is well done and provides some of the frisson we’re all looking for in a good suspense novel.
With many thanks to Lake Union Publishing and NetGalley for providing a copy. Expected publication is March 30, 2021.