Title: Last Day
Author: Luanne Rice
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
What it’s about: Beth Lathrop is lying in bed, facing the air conditioner; the room is freezing cold. Kate Woodward has called the police and they see that the dog has not been taken out for a couple of days. The police break through the glass windows, and the three of them enter, calling out for Beth. They come into the bedroom, where Beth lies on her side–dead along with her unborn son. Kate is distraught that her sister is dead.
Connor Reid hears the call come over the radio about the Lathrop’s address and makes his way over there. He swore to protect the sisters, as he was the one who found them in the basement of the Lathrop gallery, formerly known as the Woodward Gallery, tied up to their mother who had died, choking as a result of the gag. And he had failed.
Conor speaks to Kate, checks out the house, sees Beth with her unborn son, and then notices the missing painting–it looks like Moonlight was stolen again; the same painting that was stolen all those years ago when the women were tied up in the basement. Conor picks up a phone call, and talks to Pete to tell him that Beth is dead. He then meets up with his own brother, Tom, who works for the coast guard, and they go talk to Pete. Conor believes Pete is the murderer.
Kate, in the meantime, goes to pick up Beth’s daughter, Sam, from camp and tell her what happened. She’s a pilot, so she takes to the skies to get there faster and back.
As Kate and Conor separate start to dive into the lives of Beth and those around her, Kate finds out that there were secrets her sister hid from her and the three other girls of the Compass Rose–a group of four girls that were closer than friends and were more like sisters.
It turns out that while Pete had an affair with the assistant at the Gallery, who ended up giving birth to his son. She tried to pressure Pete to leave Beth for them so that they could be a family, and Pete could not decide whether to stay or to go because his feelings for the assistant were deeper than the ones for his wife. Beth on the other hand met an artist named Jed in prison when visiting her father. When he got out of prison, she set him up and they started a romance of her their own, leading her to getting pregnant. She would never tell whether it was Pete or Jed that was the father of the baby.
Conor interviews everyone, and Kate does her own investigations, leading her to seeing her father for the first time in years after he was sent to prison for the death of their mother and the heist on the painting, Moonlight. It ultimately turns out that Lulu and Beth had cut out the painting a week before her death to spite Pete, and it was hidden in the gallery all along. Kate stumbles upon the painting in Beth’s hiding space when she inspects the gallery with Conor.
As time passes by, Beth’s birthday comes along in the fall, and the friends meet up at Kate’s grandmother’s house–Mathilda’s house–to celebrate Beth’s birthday. Sam goes up to talk to her father, who is in the house, despite Kate forbidding him to be there. While talking outside, Scotty lets slip some things, and her youngest daughter, Julie, counters the information that Scotty is giving, with a different set of events. Scotty tries to cover it up as Julie not knowing anything, but ultimately she reveals that she is the one that murdered Beth because she was tired of Beth being the perfect person. Scotty was tired of Beth’s life and the affair, as well as Beth’s unwillingness to tell the men who the father of the baby was. This was further overshadowed by the fact that Scotty’s own marriage was in shambles.
My Verdict: This was an interesting thriller and I enjoyed it. It started with a very different and unexpected perspective–that of Beth, or rather, someone coming up to Beth as she lay there dead, basically painting the picture of her death in the silence of the house prior to the police officer’s entrance.
Then it kind of got muddied. There was a lot of reminiscing of the past, a lot of backstory, and different perspectives that I think the book could have done without–as they were irrelevant to the actual story at hand, like all of the background on Mathilda and the flying. I also think that the author added a bit too much depth to Sam, the teenage daughter, and unnecessarily complexity that didn’t really serve a purpose to the book except to show that she missed her mother and was cutting her wrists, smoking weed and generally acting out as a result of her parents’ marriage.
The ending was unexpected though. I had a bit of an inkling that maybe Scotty had something to do with the murder, because the fact that she was drinking so much and so early in the day, making odd comments, but to me, she doesn’t really have a motive to kill Beth. She’s going to kill one of her best friends who happens to be pregnant all because her own marriage is in shambles and she’s worried that her husband is cheating on her with the younger ladies at the office? I don’t think so. For me that was The one thing that really made this book a downer–Pete had more motive than Scotty–and even though the Forensic accountant said that he doesn’t earn a dime from killing her, I’m sure that there could have been other ways that Pete could have tried to get around the trust to get that money. Beth also has a voice at some point in Part 3, as a ghost, explaining the story of what happened to her on that fateful day that she died. It was an odd trick, though I did enjoy hearing her perspective as very rarely authors use the voices and perspectives of those who passed away. For me, it would be more bothersome if she did it the ghostly voice throughout the whole book, but just for the ending it was fine.
So it was a good book, but not one of the best thrillers I’ve read because of the odd choice in ending.