The Last Party (2022) by Clare Mackintosh

Cwm Coed, North Wales – in particular the new lakeside development known as The Shore, home to the wealthy and entitled, an area of second homes that are on the verge of bringing more and more outsiders to the areas, much to the chagrin of the locals. Rhys Lloyd, the famous singer, is the brains behind the scheme and on New Year’s Eve, he hosts the party to end all parties. And it turns out to be the party to end Rhys Lloyd.

The next day, DC Leo Brady of Cheshire serious crimes and DC Ffion Morgan from the local constabulary are assigned to the case, but both of them have other things on their mind. Leo is struggling with custody of his son, but Ffion has more serious concerns. As a resident of Cwm Coed, she has grown up with all of the suspects – indeed, some of them are in her own family. But Ffion is determined not to let this stop her working the case. Because she has secrets of her own that she is desperate to hide…

It’s a little hard to track how many thrillers Clare Mackintosh has written as I’m not sure how many of her books are in that genre. Pretty sure “A Cotswold Family Life” isn’t one, but not sure about “After The End”. Anyway, she has definitely written four thrillers to date, of which I’ve read two, “Let Me Lie” and “Hostage”. Absolutely loved the first one and almost absolutely loved the second – one of the beats right at the end didn’t sit well with me. I was intrigued when I saw that Mackintosh was starting a series, given that the previous books were primarily two point-of-view tales and I was curious how she would adapt that to the police procedural format.

Extremely well, as it happens. It’s billed as the first “DC Morgan” novel, but I do hope that Leo Brady continues to be a main character too. The author does a good job of introducing a natural barrier between the two sleuths – I’m not going to say what it is – and does a good job of bringing them together as a team.

There’s also the personal element in the case, as Ffion has family members involved and is clearly not exactly an innocent herself. Everything on the personal side evolves naturally through the tale, and never feels forced in order to force the story in any particular direction.

Early on, we get chapters alternating between Ffion and Leo’s point of view, but as the book goes on, we get some insight from all of the suspects, most of which are set before the murder takes place, so we get some insight into Rhys Lloyd and why it seems that everybody has a (good) reason to want him dead.

It’s probably less of a twisty thriller than the previous books, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t at least two very good surprises in it. The ending is extremely satisfying, the solution to the case makes sense and the case is actually solved, rather than someone just confessing to it or going nuts and trying to kill the heroes.

All in all, this is a really impressive book, melding the police procedural with enough of the psychological domestic genre to keep the people who buy that sort of thing happy. A really satisfying thriller with characters that you will care about. And will want to know what happens next to them… There seem to be a number of New Year’s Eve murder mysteries on the way this year, but they’ll have trouble being better than this one.

The Last Party is out in hardback and ebook from Sphere Books on 4th August 2022. Many thanks for the review e-copy via NetGalley.

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