February 6, 2011

The Last Child

The Last Child
John Hart


(February 6, 2011)

Winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for best novel, this seems a surprising selection. My impression has been that Edgar nominees and winners are mysteries with terrific sense of place, or that they have astonishingly interesting characters. I may have lost track of trends; I seem to have missed most of the Edgar winners lately and the novel’s of which I am thinking are now twenty years old.

This is an entertaining book and it will, in due course, make a nifty movie, but it has neither. It’s a dual-protagonist mystery – a detective and a kid – and everyone behaves as you'd expect. The Police Chief does what Police Chiefs will do in books where the Chief's interest is not aligned with our those of the detective. So does the sheriff. It’s a mid-Atlantic story, so there’s a Big and Scary Negro of whom we ought not to be frightened. Everyone, in fact, is scary and unpleasant in predictable ways. The best character, probably, is the Kid’s Sidekick, who has a bad arm and a wry sense of humor.

Lots of intricately-plotted mysteries collapse at the end, but that’s when this book really gets rolling. There’s a lot of plot to be put into place, and once all the pieces are on the board, the machine rolls along beautifully.