If you scroll down the listing for The Last Resort: A Carrie Anderson Mystery (which I’ll simply refer to as The Last Resort from here on out) on Amazon, you will find the following note from the author:
“What I wanted to do with The Last Resort is to get good information about domestic violence to readers but in an entertaining way. Most of the situations and characters in The Last Resort are based on real people and real situations. Some from my own experience, some from my parents experience – they were first responders – and some from my reading. I also wanted to dispel the notion that those who experienced domestic violence are doomed to be victims forever. I didn’t want that so I created Carrie
Domestic violence has become the stuff of romance novels and movies – the ‘big, handsome man saves the poor pitiful victim’. Unfortunately, it rarely happen and can lead to unrealistic expectations. It’s not that there’s not romance in The Last Resort, there is, he’s just not the rescuer…
20% of the author’s proceeds from this book will go to benefit victims of Domestic Violence.”
While you can take that as your trigger warning about the book (if stories featuring domestic violence cause you issues, please avoid reading this novel), author Valerie Douglas has written this with the explicit intent of enlightening readers about domestic violence. And, in case you missed it, the author is donating 20% of The Last Resort’s proceeds to domestic violence charities.
Thanks to the above, I truly wish I found more to enjoy in The Last Resort. Douglas does an admirable job of incorporating domestic violence in the book, and handles this tactfully and tastefully, while serving to dispel myths and keep away from stereotypes. It’s the spine of the book—and a damn good one—but surrounding the spine is a fair amount of fat that distracts from the narrative and its themes, watering them down as a result.
At 408 pages in paperback, an estimated 246 swipes on your Kindle, or 17 hours and 40 minutes if you’re listening to the audiobook, The Last Resort is a moderately lengthy read, if not too far above average. But this length felt far too long for the story that Douglas has to tell, which, at its core, is just as the blurb describes it: a student goes missing, and Carrie the IT technician gets pulled in to solve the mystery.
Throughout the book, Douglas diverts the prose away from the narrative, instead focusing on the small and mundane. While this is a great way of exploring the world and characters, and can bring a sense of fun to it all, these diversions take too long, and end up distracting from the narrative, rather than accentuating it. In addition to the diversions, the number of subplots and themes interwoven in the book distract from its core plot and themes, where it should enhance them.
Douglas’ approach is particularly jarring when it comes to the book’s sex scenes. While there are only a few sex scenes in The Last Resort, they take up a lot of space; individually, each sex scene could be its own (admittedly fairly short), chapter. The sex is explicit, verging on erotica. I am never one to shy away from sex scenes, and erotica has its place in fiction. But in The Last Resort, it sticks out, as the reader moves from a quiet scene to pages of explicit sex, striking a tonal shift that doesn’t work.
As the blurb says, The Last Resort stars an untrained sleuth, which is fodder for many a cosy mystery. The novel certainly features many of the genre’s hallmarks, but between the book’s length and themes, this does not carry through. In addition to the sex, there’s the major theme of domestic violence, as well as language and violence. In isolation, none of these is a bad thing, but here, it throws off the balance, giving the book something of an identity crisis.
On a technical level, however, The Last Resort shines. The central mystery is a solid one, which should keep the reader entertained. The prose is well-written, clear and crisp; handled with expertise, leading the reader through the events, and making the story’s emotion come through.
A big part of this success comes down to the characters. They are all well-rounded and, perhaps more importantly, entertaining. Carrie’s narration throughout the book helps sell these characters, with her insights and witticisms about them providing some great context. And let’s not forget Carrie, herself, a hugely entertaining character in her own right.
The Last Resort is a somewhat difficult book for me to recommend. It’s a strong mystery with some very important themes at its core. But it takes too many diversions for my liking, which end up watering down the themes. If you’re a fan of mysteries, like books with powerful themes, don’t mind sudden hardcore sex, and appreciate diversions, it could well be the book for you. If not, you’ll likely see a good book that has done itself a disservice by trying to do too much, thereby preventing it from being great.
Spotting a familiar white head, I turned in that direction. Halfway there, I was intercepted. By Vincent Donatello. Under the best of circumstances, he’s not one of my favorite people. He doesn’t look Italian in the least, more like a slightly dissolute college professor with his receding brownish hair and dark gray eyes. Slightly above medium height for a man, as testimony to his love for the finer things in life, he carried a slight paunch and a set of bags under his eyes that would have made Samsonite jealous. In his favor, there were no rumors of alcohol or drug abuse, but there was no doubt he enjoyed being the man behind the power.The Last Resort: A Carrie Anderson Mystery, Chapter 15
The Last Resort: A Carrie Anderson Mystery was provided by the author for the purpose of an honest review.
The Last Resort is available in paperback and on Kindle and on Audible, exclusive to Amazon).
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The Last Resort