Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Terry has been reading The Last Meridian by Joe Hefferon
THE LAST MERIDIAN by Joe Hefferon
‘The past is a stone – you can carry it around with you, or you can step up on it to see what’s coming over the next hill’.
The Last Meridian is a crime novel set in the 1960s, in the ‘noir’ sub-genre; it’s not one I’ve explored before, and somewhere near the beginning I realised I should read it out loud, leaning against a lamp-lit wall down a dark alley, wearing a fedora and smoking a French cigarette. I imagined this; it really did make the dialogue work!
In the first chapter in 1948, a girl drives away from Illinois, along Route 66, heading for LA. We don’t know why, but Lynn becomes Nina, and starts a new career as an interior designer for the stars. Meanwhile, back in 1965, a man associated with the underworld is murdered, and the murder is witnessed by the teenage son of the victim’s girlfriend. Nina’s involvement in this is one I didn’t guess at all, and, as the mother of the boy tries to save her son, a private detective called CS and a journalist/writer called Jimmy are brought in, centre stage.
The book took a short while to gel for me as there are a lot of characters to remember, at the beginning, but before 10% I’d settled into the back-and-forth-in-time structure, and begun to really enjoy it. Mr Hefferon is masterful at creating atmosphere, and I loved the cynical, seedy crime/Hollywood characters. I especially liked some of the short backstories; that of CS, and mother Larissa, in particular. The character I found the most interesting was Jimmy, and I liked the extracts from his manuscript, and his philosophical pondering… ‘in some cross-layered way, each of us is the supporting cast for all of us … how do we arrive at the places where our lives mesh with the people we need for our own narrative?’.
…I liked the observations about the people, fashions and culture: ‘Beards, shaggy hair and abraded clothing were just becoming the craze of the anti-establishment, yet this juvenile bandito remained stuck in 1958, unconcerned with change. He had chosen his look … he would wear it proudly until time and prison sucked the black from his mane’.
…about the locations: ‘No one with any style lives in Bakersfield … it’s all money and no pizazz. What kind of claim is ‘Halfway to Fresno’?‘
….and about Nina’s dysfunctional marriage: ‘In a lovers’ paradox, they found each other attractive at different times, but never at the same time… it was a marriage of inconvenience’.
Joe Hefferon is an intelligent and talented writer, and I hope he is as proud of this clever and delightfully atmospheric novel as he should be.
The novel ends at around 90%, after which there is an author’s note, acknowledgements, and an excerpt from another novel from the same publishing company.
A telegram sets off a chain of events that destroys five lives, throwing Hollywood insider Nina Ferrer’s life into turmoil. The infant boy she gave up for adoption in Chicago sixteen years earlier has been arrested for murder. A plea from the boy’s adoptive mother pushes her to act, but Nina has a big problem—she never told her husband about the boy.
Nina must come to terms with her guilt, while accepting the reality of her fragile life and her cheating husband, who’s embroiled in another deadly plot. As her life unravels, the boy’s fate grows ominous. Set against the backdrop of the Hollywood heyday of the early 1960s, the quick-witted, smart-talking Nina, a designer for the well-heeled of Los Angeles, hires a private detective to uncover the facts about what happened back in Chicago, and save her boy. Maybe… just maybe… he can save her, too.
Or perhaps Nina will have to save herself, the most frightening prospect of all. To do that, she must cross The Last Meridian, the place beyond which life as she knows it will no longer exist.
About the author
Retired law enforcement. Enjoying the process of creating a second career as a writer