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EVERY LAST FEAR by Alex Finlay: Book Review

One could hardly imagine a more typical family than the Pines of Nebraska.  Father, mother, three sons, a daughter.  So what catastrophe could have left only two of them alive?

The event that precipitated the tragedies began several years before the novel opens.  Danny, the oldest of the Pine children, was a high school football star at a party with his girlfriend Charlotte.  Then everyone, including Danny, started drinking and everything got out of control.  There was a fight, Charlotte fled, and she was found dead along the river the next day.  Danny was arrested, confessed to her murder, and sentenced to life in prison.

The book opens with Matt, the second oldest son, being summoned to his dorm room at NYU by his dorm’s resident assistant.  There, FBI Agent Sarah Keller gives him the heartbreaking news that his parents, sister, and younger brother have died in an apparent accident in Mexico.  Details are scarce, she informs him, but it appears to have been a faulty gas leak in a cottage they were renting in the resort town of Tulun.

Matt is stunned, needless to say, by the deaths of his parents and siblings.  His last contact from them was a text from his sister a few days earlier, but nothing since.  And now Agent Keller wants him to visit his brother in prison and give him the horrendous news personally.  Matt protests that he hasn’t seen Danny in years because that’s the way his brother wants it, but he finally relents and the two brothers meet for the first time since Danny’s imprisonment.

Agent Keller tells Matt that the Mexican authorities are making a fuss about releasing the bodies to anyone but a family member, and obviously that means Matt.   So he flies to Tulun, but nothing goes as it should.

Every Last Fear is written in several voices–Matt’s, Agent Keller’s, Matt’s father Evan’s, and his sister Maggie’s.  Evan Pine is the family member most obsessed by his son’s imprisonment.  He is convinced that Danny was coerced by the local police force into confessing, and the case became a national cause celebre when it was made into a documentary.  Danny’s defense was first mounted by an inexperienced local lawyer, then by other attorneys, finally reaching the Supreme Court, but his conviction was not overturned.

So when Evan gets a text with a photo that appears to be of Charlotte in a bar in Tulun, he feels it’s his final opportunity to find out the truth and free his son.  That led to the family’s fatal trip to Mexico and opened a Pandora’s Box of questions about the truth of Charlotte’s death.

Every Last Fear is a breathtaking thriller, with a plot that will keep you reading to the last page.  Power, privilege, mistakes–they’re all there and all believably realistic and skillfully drawn.

Alex Finlay is the pseudonym of the author, and at this time not even his/her gender has been revealed.  You can read more about him/her in an excellent discussion of the novel at this website.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads at her website.  In addition to book review posts, there are sections featuring Golden Oldies, Past Masters and Mistresses, and an About Marilyn column that features her opinions about everything to do with mystery novels.


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