Last One to Die – Cynthia Murphy

Title: Last One to Die
Author: Cynthia Murphy
Published by: Scholastic
Publication date: January 7th 2021
Genre: Young Adult/Mystery
Pages: 294
Format: Paperback
Source: Bury Library

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Blurb/Synopsis

Young, brunette women are being attacked in the city of London.

16-year-old, Irish-born Niamh has just arrived for the summer, and quickly discovers that the girls being attacked look frighteningly similar to her.

Determined to make it through her Drama Course, Niamh is placed at the Victorian Museum to put her drama skills to the test, and there she meets Tommy: he’s kind, fun, attentive, and really hot! . . . Nonetheless, there’s something eerie about the museum.

As the two strands of present-day serial attacker and sinister Victorian history start to collide, Niamh realises that things are not as they seem. Will she be next?

Review

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I picked this book up from the local library, as the blurb/synopsis appealed to me and I thought it would make a refreshing read compared to the amount of Sci-Fi/Black Library I have been guzzling lately!


Last One to Die follows the story of Niamh, a sixteen-year-old from Ireland, and her journey to London to enrol on a six-week acting course. While there she is at the centre of a rather grizzly series of events involving, new friends, girls that look suspiciously like her and a handful of strangers she has never met. As a part of her Drama Course she works as a tour-guide at a small, victorian museum where she meets Tommy; the boy of her dreams.

When I picked up this book from the library, I didn’t realise it was a Young Adult novel, and quickly realised that this book wasn’t going to be as good as the blurb made it sound. I was expecting a thriller-esque story with layers of complexity. Instead, I got a blossoming romance novel with murder on the side.

I felt myself really disconnected from Niamh; who, despite the fact that murders, assaults and goodness knows whatever else, is going on around her, is more concerned about the spelling and pronouncement of her name by people she has only just met. Rather than returning home to the safety of her quaint, idyllic life in Ireland, she remains in London (After witnessing murders, assaults and having her own life attempted on.) because she recently met a boy that she really fancies; despite knowing precious little about him. I don’t feel like I could relate to her overwhelmingly irrational life choices. Yet, there was enough of an air of intrigue about the plot to keep me invested on the book, until the end.

Niamh has problem as a main character, but surrounding her are flat, one dimensional chaaracters who are never fully explored. Jess, the new best friend, latches onto Niamh with ease and while her camaraderie it admirable, it’s also questionable. So too is the chief suspect, Wills. There’s precious little to keep these characters connected to one another, yet despite being attacked, assaulted and accused of murder, they remain loyally by Niamhs side for.. no discernible reason. There isn’t enough depth to them to make their connections believable. There’s also some very cliche aspects to the characters, Niamh is the out of town, bullied country-bumpkin. Another girl, the rich-high class snob that picks on her; despite stealing her clothes and expressing thoughts of wanting to be her. There’s the aloof, mysterious loner that’s accused of murder. Sadly, there was nothing overly new to experience in the characters in Last One to Die.

The romance between Niamh and Tommy is vague and they seem to do very little with and for one another other than attend a party they don’t want to be at and walking aimlessly around the streets of London. The time they spend together is fleeting and trivial, yet the reader is constantly reminded about how physically attractive he is and how much Niamh fancies him and turns into a drivelling mess in his presence. Even to go so far as to do the cheesy, trip over and be caught, trope. I found the romance cringe-worthy and fully admit to glossing over aspects of their relationship as quickly as I possibly could.

While I couldn’t connect with Niamh, I did find what was going on around her interesting. There is a classic feeling of ‘Who is doing these terrible things and why?’ that needed to be solved and I found myself second guessing who could be the culprit at several points. I didn’t guess who was behind the atrocities until right near the end of the novel; a good thing considering the flatness of the characters that propped up the story.

The plot follows Niamh as she goes about her new life in London, whilst around her some pretty dire stuff happens; new friends are murdered and assaulted, leaving precious little for the investigating parties to pick up on in the ways of clues. There is a really sense of tension and mystery at times, and as a reader I was geared up to have a real feeling of euphoria when the big reveal finally happened. Then the novel seems to take on a completely different turn and dips into the occult a bit to far, doesn’t really explain any of the reasoning behind the occult happenings and comes to a very unsatisfying ending. It felt as though the author wrote themselves into a corner and had to rely on the supernatural to get them out of it. Yes, there are glimpses of it, but nothing to the extent that warrants the extreme finale of the book.

I believe that the Young Adult genre isn’t going to be one that satisfies me as a reader and had I known that this books target audience wasn’t anywhere near me, I’d probably have put it down again pretty quickly. As, sadly, this was a pretty poor outing.

Summary

A mis-sold supernatural thriller, with heavy leanings into the romance category. A main character that makes a whole series of silly choices for the sake of plot, supported by a flat, cliche ridden cast.