“If you are looking for a high octane adventure story which also offers new and interesting twists on classic ideas, look no further than to The Last Night.”
The Last Night is the latest novel from Mark Dunn. Following on from the well-received A Girl in Mind, there are some parallels with his first novel, notably a fusion of realism and paranormal elements. The novel is set in the city of Charlotte, North Carolina, where Dunn currently resides, working as an English teacher in a small private school. He is currently busy working on a third novel and, if The Last Night is anything to go by, it’ll be one to look out for.
The Last Night is a fast paced read, featuring two convergent narratives. On the one hand, we have the good natured high school teacher, John, a victim of serial nightmares since childhood. John’s life is turned completely upside down when an accident involving a student occurs on the edge of his school. He is the first on the scene and the unexpected result of his intervention creates a huge stir in the community and heralds a profound change in his life. Running parallel to this is the tale of Rose, the antagonist, and a monster in more ways than one. Destiny leads them toward one another and, as the narrative unfolds, the reader realises there’s more to the story here than meets the eye.
The Last Night is an enjoyable novel, which breathes interesting new life into old ideas and marries them together with some intriguing original twists. The reader is hard pressed not to feel sympathy with the convincing protagonist, John, as he comes to terms with his entirely unwanted new status after the incident at his school. At the same time the cold, instinctive nature of the killing machine that is Rose has its own appeal, as her sense of detachment from her misdeeds sends chills down the spine far more than her violent actions in themselves. The big reveal in the story comes at the midway point, chasing away any clouds of confusion in the reader’s mind about the roles of the two central characters and yet Dunn manages to hold back two or three further plot twists so that you still find yourself trying to second guess how things will end up. The tension ratchets up, higher and higher, to a very satisfying ending.
The book is not without its problems. One such concern is the overall length of the novel. It’s a short, punchy novel, which works remarkably well to maintain the pace in the narrative, but it does come a little unravelled when the protagonist goes from sceptic to believer with respect to an explanation of his situation in what seems like one single and quick conversation. This section felt rushed and might have benefitted from the protagonist wrestling with the implications of what he is and what he has done. Another small gripe would be over a sex scene involving Rose, where the internalisation of her desire feels very much like a man guessing what a woman might think in the throes of ecstasy, the result being a scene that bears more than a passing resemblance to clichéd erotica.
These are minor flaws though and should not detract from what is an engaging novel with varied and believable characters, a strong, original plot and a satisfying conclusion. Seeing how the gruesome prologue ties in to the narrative whole once the reveal is delivered is also a particularly pleasing moment. If you are looking for a high octane adventure story which also offers new and interesting twists on classic ideas, look no further than to The Last Night.
Publisher: Journal Stone
Paperback (287 pp)
Release Date: 15 April 2016
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