The Last Party
This is my maiden voyage into the fiction and mind of Clare Mackintosh. The Last Party is much more than a police procedural as it morphs into an intricate mystery / thriller that defies the reader to guess the identity of the villain.
On New Year’s Eve, Rhys Lloyd is hosting a gala bash at The Shore, a set of five vacation lodges that line the shore of Mirror Lake. The lake forms the boundary between England and Wales. This beautiful idyllic setting is formed by Llyn Drych (“Mirror Lake” in English) surrounded by Pen y Draig (“Dragon”) Mountain on the Northern tip of the lake and the adjacent forest with the small village of Cwm Coed ( sounds like “Coom Coyd”) to the west.
Rhys and his business partner, Jonty, appear on the verge of a successful venture and decide to invite the local villagers for “champagne and canapés” to extend the proverbial olive branch in an attempt to win over their favor. The local community is not only divided by geography, but also by language, background, and wealth. Rhys is unfortunately at the nadir of his singing career and has previously enjoyed the fame and fortune of a “local boy” in his rise to operatic singing stardom. He needs this financial venture to succeed and rescue his failing career and avoid impending financial ruin. But, Rhys has returned to his father’s ancestral home site, and torn down trees to establish vacation homes for the affluent and wealthy. Bluntly put, the Welsh villagers do not appreciate the disruption of their serenity and the beauty of their lake ruined by a bunch of “rich English.”
The champagne flows freely as the guests mingle, but by midnight, Rhys will be floating face down—dead in the freezing waters of the lake. It’s obvious that not everyone was there to celebrate. By New Year’s Day, the party atmosphere has morphed into a solemn and grave crime scene, flooded with police and investigators and uncovering evidence and secrets.
Introduced into the fray is the main protagonist, Detective Constable Ffion Morgan, representing the North Wales Constabulary. She is partnered, due to proximity of adjacent England, with Detective Constable Leo Brady of the Cheshire Major Crime Unit. They are thrust into a working relationship, and charged with the investigation of not only a village full of suspects but numerous possible culprits: neighbors, friends, and even family. Ffion (“Ffi”) proves to be a feisty and contentious partner. Born and raised in Cwm Coed, and returning home after university to join the local police, she obviously harbors her own secrets, and has been plagued her whole life to tamp down the chaos in her relationships and friendships.
Neither Ffi or Leo are thrilled initially about the forced partnership, considering they were fresh out of a “one night stand” on New Years Eve, neither providing their real names or profession. However, something clicks, and the dynamics of their relationship grow into a burgeoning interdependence. They soon realize that a multitude of people wanted and would benefit from Rhys’s death. At one point, Ffi actually muses to herself: Rhys Lloyd is really dead. Thank God for that!
Clare Mackintosh proves a master storyteller as she gradually peels the onion to eventually uncover the real murderer, with multiple twists and reveals culminating in an epic denouement. She expertly weaves the many threads together to collide into an unexpected finale.
There will be no limit to reasonable red herrings, along this twisted journey. Secrets abound and are revealed. In my own mind, the obvious culprit changed frequently. As the investigation unfolded it was obvious that Rhys Lloyd was exceedingly deplorable, with more enemies than friends, and numerous motives were plausible.
Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing an Uncorrected Proof in exchange for an honest review. Hopefully we will enjoy further trials and tribulations of DC Ffi Morgan.