Thursday 9 March 2017

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia

Published by Quercus on March 9, 2017

I instantly loved the sound of The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman and it became one of those books that I just had to read and I could barely wait once it arrived in the post. This is the story of teenager Hattie Hoffman, popular, charismatic and much-loved within the small community she lives in. One day, Hattie’s body is discovered. She’s been murdered. Not simply a whodunit, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is a haunting exploration of small-town claustrophobia and how the loss of one of their inhabitants can alter the face of the community forever.

My favourite part of this book by far is getting to know the character of Hattie Hoffman. We hear from her throughout the book in the days when she is alive, and she is an absolutely fascinating character to get to know. You’re not necessarily going to love Hattie, but you will be enthralled by her. I know I was.

The narrative in this book flits between the past and the present, focusing on the perspectives of Hattie herself, Del, a family friend who is investigating her murder and Peter, Hattie’s English teacher. I found the beginning of this book quite slow at first and then it picked up pace. In the middle I found there was a slight lull and then as the story built up towards the end I was back to being engrossed in the story. I didn't dislike the up and down pacing. Yes it stopped me from reading this book in one unputdownable sitting but by the end I was glad I'd had a chance to savour this book over the course of a few days. Hattie Hoffman and her life is not one that instantly leaves your mind once the book is over. I know I won't be forgetting Hattie in a hurry.

The beginning of the book is intriguing and I was already dying to know who had killed Hattie. The story is jam packed with red herrings which distracted me from the real killer, for a little while at least. Their identity isn’t too difficult to work out, given the size of the place Hattie lived in, but this book does not rely on the whodunit aspect for its entertainment value. Actually, the best part of this book for me is the characterisation. There weren’t many characters I did like but there weren’t any that didn’t interest me or engage me. I enjoyed the different perspectives of Hattie. Both Del and Peter saw her differently but not only that, Hattie was an enigma all on her own. Stabbed on the night of her performance in Macbeth, there are rumours of the curse, rumours of who or what could have killed this beautiful, manipulative and alluring young girl, rumours that were just as addictive for me as the reader, eager to read on and learn the truth about what had happened to Hattie Hoffman.

The author nails the feel of a small-town that is full of lies and secrets and manipulation. The community is a satisfyingly disturbing and unsettling one. Not just compelling through the murder mystery alone, the author delivers a layered and convincing story full of dysfunctional relationships, bad choices and severe consequences. With flawed characters aplenty, as the mystery in The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman unravels, the authors hold on you as the reader doesn’t let go. This book was truly mesmerising and incredibly memorable.

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