Local sheriff Del Goodman, a good friend of Hattie's dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers; it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives: Del's, Hattie's high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the real Hattie, and what happened that final year of school when she dreamed of leaving her small town behind . . .
Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity, about the line between innocence and culpability, about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control (from Goodreads.com)
Published 9th March 2017 by Quercus (UK)
The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia wasn't a book or author I'd heard of when I first came across it, but with such an intriguing title and synopsis, I thought I'd give it a go. I am so glad I did, this book is one of those wich grip you from the very first page and keep you reading right the way through.
The story centers on the shocking murder of a eighteen year old Hattie, in a small mid-western town in America. Local sheriff, Del, investigates the crime, but he's also got an emotional attachment to the case. He's a good friend of the family and has known Hattie since she was born. The book tells the story from his point of view as he investigates the murder, and also from Hattie's teacher, Peter, all in the present. A third narrator from the past is from Hattie herself, in the months leading up to the murder, and the alternating chapters and perspectives each have a distinct style and voice, making for an intriguing and absorbing read.
I really liked Del and thought he was the main strength behind this book. Yes, he's the typical workaholic, coffee drinking, single and lonely, tough detective character, but there's a real empathetic and understanding side to him. The emotional connection he feels to the family is clear, yet I loved how his character dealt with facing conflicting feelings of personal bereavement and loyalty to Hattie and her family and professionalism to the case. Del is a fair man. He isn't perfect, he has his flaws, but he's the type of person you'd want to have your back. It's not just with the family who he has close ties to that we see this side of him, but in his interactions with other characters throughout the book.
I also thought it was a clever idea to add in the voice of Hattie herself, and this meant we really got to know her. Hattie is complex, in that she presents herself as one thing to the community she lives in, while concealing her real dreams and feelings to the rest of the world. I felt conflicted about her character. On the one hand, it's easy to dislike her...she comes across as calculating and cold, but I think that's because it's easy to forget that she is only Eighteen years old. Despite her apparent maturity, she's actually pretty naive and easily influenced. I ended up feeling quite sorry for her, a girl who is dissatisfied with her life, feels out of place and dreams for more, she thinks she's found it and this makes her quite vulnerable. The third narration comes from her English teacher, Peter Lund. He's the character I struggled with most, finding him pretentious, weak and self pitying. I think it's credit to the author's excellent writing that I felt this way, as that's exactly the response I presume I was supposed to have.
The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is a whodunnit murder investigation, and the prime suspects are flagged up pretty obviously. Yet despite knowing it was going to be one of these people, the author had my accusations switching from one to the other throughout. But this book is also an exploration of personal responsibility, a theme found in several of the small sub-plots and background stories. It had me questioning who was taking advantage of who at times, who was actually in control here and who was to blame. It also made me consider how being the person on the pedestal can actually make you the most vulnerable of all. The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman throws up every human flaw found in dysfunctional relationships: jealousy, weakness, selfishness, desire, need, revenge and control. I read this in two days, was gripped and absorbed throughout and even the ending left me with something to think about.
(I read a proof copy from the Amazon Vine program)