Not a One-Star Review

The Last Word

By Taylor Adams

During their marathon sessions of “Hangman,” Deek tried to convince Emma to meet him in person for a cup of ginger tea. This request would become symbolic of their promise to stay alive as H.G. Kane terrorized Emma’s beach house. Cozy up with this titillating thriller and a warm cup of homemade apple cinnamon tea with ginger courtesy of Posh Plate. You can even adjust the serving size on her blog so that everyone in book club can have a cup.

*** Thank you to William Morrow for providing me with a copy of The Last Word in exchange for my honest review. ***

As soon as I began reading this book, I knew I was in trouble. 

No, I never thought about rating Taylor Adam’s exciting new thriller, The Last Word, one star to test whether I would succumb to the same fate as the heroine.

I knew I was in trouble because my husband was leaving for a business trip at the end of the week, and I could tell that this wasn’t a book I wanted to read in an empty house.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about that. The book was so good that I finished it in two days.

Emma Carpenter is reeling from a personal tragedy that has caused her to socially isolate herself from everyone she knows and move to the remote town of Strand Beach. Truthfully, she wasn’t too keen on people to begin with, but nothing breeds the desire to seclude yourself more than a good reason to escape the calamity of your reality. Emma is house-sitting for a woman named Jules whose son, Howie, recently gave up the gig. Accompanied only by her loyal and friendly golden retriever, Laika, Emma drowns out her thoughts by immersing herself in 99-cent e-books she purchases from Amazon.

While Emma has cut herself off from most people, there is one exception: The closest neighbor to the beach house. Deek is a retired true crime novelist who now spends most of his day drinking. He lives about a quarter of a mile away from Emma on the beach, and Emma occasionally watches him through a telescope. One day, he uses a whiteboard to invite her to play Hangman. This becomes the entirety of their relationship as they trade turns back and forth, never leaving their houses. Deek invites Emma over for a cup of ginger tea on several occasions, but Emma never accepts the offer. He realizes that something is bothering Emma and constantly reminds her that he is available to talk.

Truthfully, Emma is far from okay. Deek has seen her go out to the beach. She goes further and further in the water until she is close to the riptide. However, even Deek does not know the true burden of Emma’s mental state. Emma keeps a backpack full of rocks next to the door of her house, waiting for the day when she dares to put it on and step into the water. Emma has even gone as far as leaving an entire bag of dog food open for Laika so she would have something to eat until someone discovered Emma’s body. The only thing keeping Emma alive is the e-books. They disrupt her suicidal thoughts.

Her lifeline soon becomes her death sentence. One night, Deek jokingly suggests a book for Emma to read. The book is entitled Murder Mountain by self-published author H.G. Kane. The book follows two co-eds camping on a mountain who are murdered. Emma hates every moment of the book, from the high heels the women packed for camping to the stupid decisions they make as they are being stalked by the killer. The only thing interesting about the book (and all of H.G. Kane’s books for that matter) is that it is written from the killer’s perspective. At the end of her rage-filled reading session, Emma rates the book one star. The author himself soon responds back to the rating, asking her to take it down so that she doesn’t prevent him from getting publishing deals. Upset by his audacity, Emma repeatedly refuses, even after the author tells her that she will regret her decision.

Then, Emma starts thinking she sees a man’s figure in the corner of her bedroom. She gets the sense that someone is inside her house. Finally, one night she hears a “bump” outside her front door. She considers opening the door, then decides against it. Hours later, she gets a message from Jules telling her that a man in a demon mask was captured on the video doorbell system.

This is where Emma’s nightmare begins.

Maybe the co-eds in Murder Mountain made stupid decisions because real people make bad decisions when they are under stress. Maybe that accounts for why H.G. Kane’s other 16 novels were bad, too.

I rarely rate a thriller 5 stars because they normally can’t reach my standards for such a high rating. As you can read in my explanation below, five-star ratings mean that I don’t only like the book, but I can’t stop thinking about it.  The Last Word definitely broke the mold. From the first chapter onward, The Last Word was mysterious and exciting. At every turn, there was some new revelation that brought light to the story, whether it was about Emma’s tragedy, H.G. Kane’s actions, H.G. Kane’s background, or other elements that landed Emma in the situation she is in. 

In addition to the story itself, the style of the book was unique in the way it was put together. The plot was broken up by the killer’s first draft of his new book, which is narrated in his own voice. Emma provides flashbacks of her previous life, which also breaks up the story. There was never an opportunity to get bored because something new was always on the horizon. 

I’ve read several of Taylor Adam’s books, including No Exit (which I liked) and Hairpin Bridge (which I thought was okay).  The Last Word blows those other two out of the water. I’ve been telling all my thriller-loving friends that they have to grab a copy when it comes out. I fully expect to make The Last Word my recommended read for both of my book clubs. So, grab a cup of ginger tea and turn on all your lights– you’re going to be glued to your couch for a while.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

My Rating System Explained

5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:  This was an amazing book, and I can't stop thinking about it.   It impacted me emotionally or changed my perspective.  My thoughts keep flickering back to it at random times throughout the day.  I will absolutely recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs.

4 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️:  This was a really good book.  Parts of it stuck with me, and I might mention it in a conversation.  There is a high likelihood that I will recommend it to my friends or to one of my book clubs.

3 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️:  I liked this book.  It allowed me to escape from reality for a while.  While I might tell somebody about it if I think it will interest them, I will probably not suggest it to one of my book clubs.

2 Stars ⭐️⭐️:  There's something about this book that I didn't like.  I wasn't willing to go all the way down to a one-star rating, but I'm definitely not digging it.  I may recognize that this book is not for me, but it might be for other people.  I will not recommend it to my friends or one of my book clubs.

1 Star ⭐️:  My rarest rating.  I really didn't like this book.  Something in the story line upset me, and I probably "hate-read" the majority of the book.  Not only will I not recommend it, but I will actively tell people that I did not like it.

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