Is the evil done to us irreparable? Are we doomed to pay it forward?
Last Girl Gone is an assured debut, as much a thriller as a mystery (certainly effective as the former). Young girls are starting to go missing in the small town of Hillsborough, North Carolina—just like they did decades before—and disgraced journalist Laura Chambers sees her way back out of her hometown.
It isn’t just exactly in the Hillbilly Highways wheelhouse. It is set in a small town, and it is about a women who returns to the small town from whence she came. Hetherton leans on that, but Last Girl Gone is very much a thriller.
People in Last Girl Gone make a big deal about Laura coming back to Hillsborough after she left, but the truth is that people are more likely to not give a shit. Out of sight is out of mind in a small town. That time away is just a gap in memory.
It’s an effective plot device, though. It gives Laura motivation to get out of Hillsborough. Her horrid mother highlights the central questions that undergird the book that I included at the top of my review. Decades-old kidnappings and a decades-closed stock car track remind us that Faulkner was right: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
Let’s talk about the protagonist. This is very much Laura’s book. She left Hillsborough planning to never look back but had to slink back with her tail between her legs. The Boston Globe to the local Hillsborough paper is a steep tumble. She worked the “human outrage” beat at the Boston Globe, so she’s seen some things.
Laura starts out very unlikeable. A journalists as a protagonist may be a tough sale from the get-go. It works well for the story. Laura is unlikeable because she is willing to do whatever it takes to get out of Hillsborough and get her career back on track, and she doesn’t care who she has to hurt. She gets a lot of that beat out of her by the events of the book, but she also makes certain choices. It makes for a really strong character arc.
(Laura is also the first of three protagonists in three straight books I read who are younger than me. Am I getting old? No, it’s the children who are wrong.)
Last Girl Gone features multiple twists. None of those twists are truly shocking, but they are well structured, and these days I appreciate a well structured twist—one that doesn’t undermine the book that came before it—more than an entirely unexpected one.
4 of 5 Stars.
I received a review copy of Last Girl Gone courtesy of the publisher.
Jay at This Is My Truth Now – review.
Melisa at The Book Collective Blog – review.
Kathy at Books Reviews & More – review.
Jessica at Jessicamap Reviews – review.