Book Title: The Last Place You Look
Author: Kristen Lepionka
REVIEWED BY: CHELSEA
Series: Roxane Weary #1
Genres: Crime Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Detective
Date Read: 06/04/17
Pub Date: 06/13/17
Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.
Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.
“Matt said you find things. For a living.” Isn’t it peculiar how the first line of a book can make or break it for you? As soon as I read those words I knew this novel and I would get along just fine. While I had every intention of just dipping my toes in and slowly making my way through the story, that isn’t exactly what happened. I was immediately gripped by Roxane and her unconventional methods, and when I found out fellow blogger Annie @ The Misstery was also reading this, we decided to hunker down together and binge the entire book in less than 12 hours. Needless to say, this was an arresting debut that managed to be equal parts plot and character driven.
“No one’s ever lost forever.”
I can see why readers are hesitant to jump in at the beginning of yet another new series. It may be just a Chelsea thing, but I’ve noticed that out of the copious amount of detective crime series I’ve begun, I only continue past the first book with about 30%, and further more I only continue past book three about 10% of the time. All that to say, Roxane Weary has the great potential to be a part of that glorious 10%. How often does such a diverse novel of the mystery/suspense/thriller genre come about? Our leading lady is a bisexual private investigator who is looking for the only possible witness to free a black man who has been wrongly placed on death row for the murder of his girlfriend’s parents. We get an insight not only to the case at hand, but into Roxane’s private life and the events that have shaped her into the person she is in the present.
I’m assuming this series will run similar to other crime fiction where we focus on a single case per installment, and I felt this first one was handled really well. I truly didn’t have the ending figured out until the big reveal, and while that was a huge bonus, it wasn’t even my favorite part of the book. The reason I’ll be coming back to read more from Lepionka is for her ability to craft characters that come alive off the page; I was fully invested in Roxane’s personal life, whether that be with her family or either of her two love interests. My only minor issue was that I found it a little distracting to have to follow both potential relationships right off the bat. If I’m being honest though, I can’t figure out a better way to have written them in than the way the author chose to, so I’m not entirely sure my concerns are valid. Otherwise, I literally couldn’t get enough of this book. I was completely consumed by the story and found myself stuttering and whining at the close of the story that I didn’t immediately have a following book to continue on with.
Chances are you’re reading this because you too are a fan of crime fiction of the procedural type. I can also bet that you are growing weary of the stale, ritualistic series that lull you to sleep and make you rethink why you keep picking these books up. My answer: you pick them up so that you can find gems like this among the muck and mess. If you are looking for a fresh breath of unique writing in a genre that can lose your loyalty quickly, look no further. This book has just about everything you could want and can satisfy even the pickiest of mystery readers, while also establishing a foundation of being so much more than simply a decent twist. With deeply relatable characters and a speedy plot, I’d highly recommend THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK to all readers of the genre, whether you are a seasoned vet or a newbie dipping your toes for the first time. Please get to writing Kristen; we need more!
*Many thanks to the author and Little K for providing my copy; it was a pleasure to provide my honest thoughts.
Kristen Lepionka grew up mostly in her local public library, where she could be found in the adult mystery section well before she was out of middle school. Her writing has been selected for Shotgun Honey, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grift, and Black Elephant. She is also the editor of Betty Fedora, a semi-annual journal that publishes feminist crime fiction and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her partner and two cats.