Book Review: The Last September

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The Last September was the right book read at this right time. Nothing too taxing, or too hulking at this busy time in the year, and offering a highly readable, brisk read. Thank you to Netgalley and Algonquin Books for giving access to it (and Windsor Public Library too for bringing in the hardcover quickly, which was the edition I read.)

Brett and Eli have been best friends while at college. A solid friendship and not hampered by any romantic feelings, they spend a great deal of time together. One night, Brett walks into a party Eli is having a meets his charismatic and very handsome brother, Charlie. They have a quick one night stand with the promise that Charlie will write to her (he doesn’t have a cell phone or computer so it’s going to have to be old school.) Eli is saddened to hear that Brett has fallen for Charlie – he’s a good-time, love them and leave them kind of guy and Eli didn’t want his best friend to fall for him. Sadly, Brett is head over heels for him and cannot stop thinking about Charlie. But, true to Eli’s description, Charlie never does ever write Brett.

A not so long of a time period later, Eli returns to college but is vastly different than ever before. His med-school dreams are dashed when he’s diagnosed with schizophrenia and spends more time heavily medicated and in and out of hospitals. By this time, Brett has met Ladd, and has agreed to marry him.

On a weekend when they are travelling to Ladd’s family’s summer home in Cape Cod, Brett and Ladd run into Eli and later that evening at Ladd’s family’s party, Brett meets up again with Charlie. Expectantly, Brett succumbs to Charlie’s charms, being easily swept away by him and breaking Ladd’s heart and their engagement.

Brett and Charlie marry, but Charlie is definitely no safe, secure and responsible Ladd. He’s “good time Charlie” and fails to ever land a job, or giving up his womanizing ways. Eli as well is becoming increasingly unreliable with his behaviour. Also, now that Brett and Charlie have a daughter, she cannot risk being in the same house at the same time when Eli is coming to visit, for fear of their safety. So, Brett leaves to stay at a girlfriend’s house while Eli is at the house with Charlie. At the same time, Brett has confronted Charlie about an affair he’s had, and Ladd has returned from travelling and has written to Brett, asking to see her.

After Brett has gone to see Ladd, but disturbingly hasn’t had any of her phone calls to Charlie returned, she goes back to their house and finds Charlie brutally murdered and Eli extremely distraught and he flees the scene. This is not a spoiler, the murder of Charlie is what opens the book. From that point, the story is being built around the characters of Brett, Eli, Charlie and Ladd and the events that bring them to the evening Charlie is murdered.

But is Eli really the murderer? He is the most obvious choice, most unstable, and was on the scene when Brett found her husband.

While The Last September is semi-predictable, and when the reveal came it felt almost like a shrug and there it is, meaning there was not a lot of suspense and build up to that final reveal. It is categorized as a psychological thriller and suspense, but I would say by the end that suspense wasn’t as thrilling or edge-of-seat anticipation. There wasn’t as much of intense build up to the discovery of the murderer’s identity. However, the story moved along at a good clip and even though I could see the direction it was headed, it didn’t stop me from wanting to keep reading. I needed a lighter and quick read at this time, and The Last September did deliver very well for that need.

Literary Hoarders Penny rev