Saturday 17 June 2023

Guest Review: The Last Party By Clare Mackintosh

On New Year's Eve, Rhys Lloyd has a house full of guests.

He's celebrating the success of his lakeside holiday homes, and has generously invited the village to drink champagne with their wealthy new neighbours.

By midnight, Rhys will be floating dead in the freezing waters of the lake.

On New Year's Day, DC Ffion Morgan has a village full of suspects.

She grew up in the tiny community, so the murder suspects are her neighbours, friends and family - and Ffion has her own secrets to protect.

With a lie uncovered at every turn, soon the question isn't who wanted Rhys dead . . . but who finally killed him.

Review: This is a crime thriller set around a lake through which the border between England and Wales runs. On the Welsh side of the lake is the village of Cwm Coed, and on the English side of the lake a new development of luxury holiday homes has been built. One of the local traditions of the village is a New Year‘s Day swim in the lake. The story opens when the start of the swim is interrupted when the body of a dead man floats into view. The deceased turns out to be Rhys Lloyd, a local man who found fame as an opera singer, moved away from the village, but came back to build the luxury lodges, one of which he uses as a holiday home. He was last seen alive at a New Year’s Eve party which he organised at the lodges.

Because it was not clear whether Rhys died on the English or Welsh side of the border, two detectives, Detective Constable (DC) Ffion Morgan of North Wales Police, who is also from Cwm Coed, and Detective Constable Leo Brady of Cheshire Constabulary are assigned to investigate his unexplained death. It turns out that there are suspicious circumstances, and the book follows detectives Morgan and Brady’s initially awkward relationship as they attempt to piece together the events that took place at the party.

The timeline of the story jumps around, with a lot of it told in flashback. Each chapter bears a title comprising the particular date, and in some cases the time of day, and the person from whose perspective the chapter is written. Although I found this confusing initially, I soon got into the swing of things and found that this style helped to move the story along at a good pace. It was also interesting to read, on a few occasions, the same sequence of events and conversations, but from two different persons’ perspectives.

The story is similar to an Agatha Christie whodunnit, in that it turns out that there are many people in the village and the holiday lodges who bear the deceased a grudge, so there is no shortage of suspects to investigate. The author, Clare Mackintosh, is a former Police Officer, so the descriptions of police procedures appear to be very accurate. There is also a lot of typical police officers’ dark humour, together with a number of phrases in Welsh. One minor criticism I did have was that the results of forensic tests came back from the laboratory extremely quickly and that the results, even on what appeared to be difficult material, were unequivocal. As a former forensic scientist, I found this too good to be true. However, this is a minor criticism and overall I found this book to be an exciting crime thriller as the two police officers tried to unravel the tangled web of intrigue.

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