Friday, August 23, 2019

FFB Review: THE LAST BEST HOPE (1998) by Ed McBain Reviewed by Barry Ergang

After his all new review of The Big Bad City by Ed McBain last week, it seemed appropriate to run again Barry’s review of THE LAST BEST HOPE.  For the full list of reading suggestions, check out Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog.

THE LAST BEST HOPE (1998) by Ed McBain

Jill Lawton comes to attorney Matthew Hope's law office in Calusa, Florida to get a divorce—with alimony—from her long-gone husband Jack. Nine months earlier, Jack had gone north, ostensibly in search of freelance graphic design work, and she has not heard from him since. Jill hopes to invoke the Enoch Arden Law, but Matthew explains that not enough time has passed for this to apply, and that they'll have to find Jack and serve him with the divorce papers.

It's not long thereafter that a man's body is found on a beach in Calusa, the face gone from a shotgun blast. A driver's license and Visa card in the man's pockets suggest he's Jack Lawton. But when Jill is summoned to positively identify the body, she instantly determines from the absence of a miniscule blue dot on his Adam's apple that the man is not her husband.

Matthew puts a firm of private investigators on the case, and on his own phones a precinct in the city where Jack was last known to have been. The city is unnamed; the precinct is the 87th; the detective Matthew talks to is Steve Carella.

Thus McBain melds two series and the sleuths therefrom, each working in different locations on the same case.

As the body count increases and surprises unfold, McBain with the skill his fans know and love conveys the story's past and present from different angles and viewpoints, switching among the various investigators and multiple villains. The reader is taken into the heads of the characters, all of whom are believably fleshed-out, and comes to know them from their conversations with others and their internal monologues—another McBain trademark.

The Last Best Hope never lets up—it's a superb example of a "page-turner"—as characters and events converge in a wild climax tense with excitement but leavened with humor situational, coincidental, and authorial. The lyric from a song in a James Bond movie aptly sums up Ed McBain: "Nobody does it better."

Barry Ergang © 2007, 2019

Some of Derringer winner Barry Ergang's work is available at Amazon and Smashwords.


George said...

Ed McBain's 87th Precinct is a great series, but so is the Matthew Hope series. Nice review!

Mathew Paust said...

I read The Last Best Hope a couple of years ago, and your review made it seem like yesterday. You're right, Barry, McBain's at the top of the game.