Interestingly I thought this book was going to be about macabre domicile-related happenings when Libby and Jamie arrive in Cornwall for a house swap. And it is. Kinda. But though there’s a sense of menace around the amazing house they’ve briefly traded for their small flat, we soon learn their problems have little to do with where they’re living. Rather, they’re a result of who they are and what they’ve done. Cue dramatic music….
Last Seen Alive
by Claire Douglas
Published by Penguin
on July 13th 2017
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 1405926422, 9781405926423
Libby Hall never really wanted to be noticed. But after she saves the children in her care from a fire, she finds herself headline news. And horrified by the attention. It all reminds her of what happened nine years ago. The last time she saw her best friend alive.
Which is why the house swap is such a godsend. Libby and her husband Jamie exchange their flat in Bath for a beautiful, secluded house in Cornwall. It's a chance to heal their marriage - to stop its secrets tearing them apart.
But this stylish Cornish home isn't the getaway they'd hoped for. They make odd, even disturbing, discoveries in the house. It's so isolated-yet Libby doesn't feel entirely alone. As if she's being watched.
Is Libby being paranoid? What is her husband hiding? And. As the secrets and lies come tumbling out, is the past about to catch up with them?
I liked Libby. The Libby we know for most of this novel is a good person. She loves her husband but hides a lack of confidence and uncertainty she struggles to contain.
Jamie seems devoted but annoyingly oblivious to the way he exacerbates Libby’s insecurities. We learn that she’s now survived a couple of major incidents in her life and Jamie tries to be understanding but his patience is thinning and Libby feels unable to keep her fears under control.
This is another novel offering characters in many MANY shades of grey. Like I said, I liked Libby but, even early on, we’re privy to some contrasting behaviour… and the candle incident (for anyone who’s read the book) left me a little conflicted. And then there’s Jamie and his family and their ongoing relationship with Jamie’s ex-girlfriend who practically lives with them.
On top of that, there’s the whole messy history between Libby and the friend who perished in a fire in Thailand almost a decade earlier.
It’s hard to say too much about the characters and the types of people they are because it’ll reveal some of the books major twists.
There’s an interesting dilemma put forward in this book when it comes to sharing our secrets and telling the truth. I think most of us have a natural tendency to lie or abbreviate the truth: if it reflects badly on us; if it’s not hurting anyone else; and if it’s unlikely we’ll be found out. But that backfires spectacularly in this book and I can’t help but wonder if the person involved SHOULD have learned a lesson the first time around.
I enjoyed this novel of suspense, but it also frustrated me. I think readers kinda guess what’s happened just before Douglas tells us. But the twist isn’t as simple as we initially expect so there are complications thrown in and, though we later think things are resolved we’re never really sure justice is served or if – ultimately – karma lands where it should.
Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas was published in Australia by Penguin Random House and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.