Tuesday, June 03, 2014


THE LAST DEAD GIRL by Harry Dolan, G.P. Putnam & Sons, ISBN 978-0-399-15796-7, HB $26.95, Rating A

     Few reading experiences are as satisfying as finding an excellent book by a new author, or new to the reader, anyway. The Last Dead Girl is Harry Dolan’s third novel, but the first that I’ve read, and is very much an excellent book.

     Dolan’s previous works are Bad Things Happen and Very Bad Men, both featuring David Loogan, the editor of a mystery magazine, Gray Streets, and taking place in Ann Arbor, Michigan. David Loogan is a mysterious, closed-mouth man with a guarded past. The Last Dead Girl is a prequel of sorts and helps to reveal the past that Loogan is reluctant to discuss, a past where his name was David Malone.

     Late in the evening on a wet, rainy road in Rome, NY, David Malone turns around on a hunch to find a young woman outside her wrecked car and a deer lying by the side of the road. Malone thinks the deer is dead, but when the woman gently massages the deer’s flank and head, surprisingly, it rises and walks off into the woods. The experience draws Malone and the woman, Jana Fletcher, into a romance, a short-lived one. Ten days later Jana is brutally murdered in her apartment and Malone is the prime suspect.

     While police seem to just want the case closed in the most expedient way, Malone believes there are deeper motives behind Jana’s death, something evolving from her interest in a murder from years earlier. As Malone begins to track Jana’s past movements and the people she’s talked with, he becomes convinced that she was on the right track, and now those that were afraid of what Jana might find, might be after him.

     The Last Dead Girl is a page-turner and a thriller, yet has a complex, multi-threaded plot. Solidly written and told deftly in multiple points of view and incorporating flashbacks, the story pushes forward. Every transition seems perfectly timed to ramp up the tension and reveal the next clever twist. Characters are well-drawn, multi-dimensional and believable and Dolan gives them dialog that helps them come to life. David Malone (Loogan) is an intelligent, multi-faceted protagonist, with enough flaws to keep him real, and more than enough personality to carry a long series.

     If Harry Dolan isn’t on your To-Be-Read list, you need to put him there right away. You’ll be glad you did.

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