Goodreads bills this as Roxane Weary #1, so it’s already a good sign that this debut novel by Kirsten Lepionka will be the first of many. Or at least several. It’s also ideal to start a new series at the beginning…. something I’ve occasionally not done and my enjoyment of subsequent books has suffered as a result (Emma Viskic’s And Fire Came Down / Resurrection Bay, I’m looking at you!)
The Last Place You Look
by Kristen Lepionka
Series: Roxane Weary #1
on July 6th 2017
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Thriller / Suspense, Psychological Thriller
ISBN: 057133475X, 9780571334759, 9780571339303
Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton - black and from the wrong side of the tracks - was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.
Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah's vanishing act, especially when she thinks she's linked Sarah's disappearance to one of her father's unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad's life and her own.
I must admit initially I assumed there’d been other books in this series as we meet Roxane at a point when she’s struggling. There are a few comments about her drinking, her father’s death and I wondered what I’d missed. However… Lepionka does a great job at eking out Roxane’s backstory – particularly her family history and her complicated relationship with her cop-father, Frank…. who was killed on the job nine months before this book kicks off.
Roxane’s a great character. Indeed, Lepionka’s shied away from over-achievers in this book (and series so far). Roxane and her two brothers all seem to be struggling a little though all in their mid-late thirties. I suspect we’ll learn more about their relationship with their father (and mother) as the series progresses but we meet her family a few times in this book (she’s particularly close to her brother Andrew) and get a peek at the type of man who raised them. Indeed it seems to have been something that shaped Roxane and she’s struggling with the fact her father viewed her as a disappointment.
Her father’s work-partner (and Roxane’s occasional lover) Tom, however, has different views on the matter.
We learn early that Roxane’s had both male and female love interests and meet her long-term on-again / off-again girlfriend in this first novel. There is – however – a bit of an a-ha moment on that front.
The plot itself is interesting and, although not-quite-addictive, I read it in a sitting. Roxane’s cynical about Brad Stockton’s innocence and his sister’s assertion that Sarah Cook is alive (and is somehow implicated in her parents’ murders). I expected the book to be more about the events around Sarah’s disappearance and her parents’ murders, but that wasn’t really the case. Rather, Roxane goes off on a tangent after discovering other young women (similar to Sarah) have disappeared.
She ends up with no shortage of suspects – including Brad who’s on death row and seems to have his secrets – but angers the local police force who seem irrationally angry about her investigation.
I’m not sure I found the actual conclusion entirely feasible – in terms of events of 15yrs earlier and Sarah’s disappearance as that part of the plot ultimately felt a little underdone. I was kept guessing, however, until Roxane herself worked it all out.
This is a great debut novel and I look forward to more in the series.
The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book for review purposes.