After posting a negative book review, a woman living in a remote location begins to wonder if the author is a little touchy—or very, very dangerous—in this pulse-pounding novel of psychological suspense and terror from the critically acclaimed author of No Exit and Hairpin Bridge.
Emma Carpenter lives in isolation with her golden retriever Laika, house-sitting an old beachfront home on the rainy Washington coast. Her only human contact is her enigmatic old neighbor, Deek, and (via text) the house’s owner, Jules.
One day, she reads a poorly written—but gruesome—horror novel by the author H. G. Kane, and posts a one-star review that drags her into an online argument with none other than the author himself. Soon after, disturbing incidents start to occur at night. To Emma, this can’t just be a coincidence. It was strange enough for this author to bicker with her online about a lousy review; could he be stalking her, too?
As Emma digs into Kane’s life and work, she learns he has published sixteen other novels, all similarly sadistic tales of stalking and murder. But who is he? How did he find her? And what else is he capable of?
Displaying his trademark command of rapid-fire pacing, unnerving atmosphere, and razor-sharp characterization, Taylor Adams once again delivers a diabolically disturbing—and deadly—game of cat and mouse.
I started reading books by Taylor Adams after he published No Exit, which I loved. While I thought Hairpin Bridge was a solid thriller, it felt a bit one note and similar to No Exit. Still, I was excited to dive into The Last Word as soon as possible. I was particularly intrigued because I also had a bad interaction with an author who ended up threatening me. Obviously, this book was not going to mirror my experience, but I thought it was a fun concept to take to an extreme.
The Last Word is a thriller that takes place on an isolated beach where Emma, our protagonist, is house sitting and has secluded herself. Having cut off ties with seemingly everyone in her life, Emma spends her days reading thrillers and crime fiction on her e-reader, walking her dog, and playing hangman with the neighbor she has never met. After reading a horrible, self-published novel her neighbor recommended, Emma accidently publishes her harsh one-star review online and begins to receive messages from the author.
Taylor Adams weaves suspense on several levels throughout The Last Word. Readers are initially in the dark regarding why Emma has self-isolated, who her neighbor is, and more. And of course, we know something is going to happen with the mysterious author, H.G. Kane.
Compared to Adams’s previous two novels, I thought The Last Word started rather slowly. While this allows readers to become familiar with the protagonist, setting, and context, I kept expecting the story to take off at the breakneck speed characteristic of Adams’s books. Eventually, it does.
The other issue I had with the first part of The Last Word was that it did not make sense to me why Emma would be so paranoid about a jilted author coming after her. He did not make any real threat against her. I guess we were supposed to chalk this up to her living alone in a strange place and reading too many thrillers. Regardless, these chapters lacked tension and atmospheric dread. Feeling disconnected, this was the part that was most difficult for me to read.
However, once the story took off, it did not let up until the very last page. There were twists; there were turns. Having read Adams’s previous novels, I anticipated that The Last Word would be twisty, action-packed, and catch readers off guard. Although I was not blown away by the many twists, I still found this to be a wild, fun, and bingeable novel that I stayed up too late to finish.
If you are unfamiliar with Taylor Adams’s previous books, I want to warn you that, like those, The Last Word is a bit gruesome but not overly graphic. Still, the novel has a light, humorous tone that balances it out. I also enjoyed that it did not take itself too seriously, which is extra great when you have to suspend some disbelief for the plot. My other warning is that the dog is hurt but not severally. Humans being injured and hurt I can handle. Dogs? Not so much. While the dog parts were the most stressful for me, I never considered putting the book down.
Overall, The Last Word is an action-packed revenge thriller full of Russian doll-like twists that I really enjoyed. It gets bonus points for a make author writing a female protagonist that is not idiotic, sexualized, or otherwise cringey. I highly recommend it unless you hate books that require any suspension of belief. But if you are looking for a fun book that you can be sucked into and forget time, this is one of those novels
The Last Word
April 25, 2023