Their Last Words by Steve Parker

A review of the detective crime thriller novel Their Last Words by Steve Parker.

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A serial killer thriller, Their Last Words follows Detective Superintendent Ray Paterson as he investigates a brutal murder on the streets of London. A young woman’s body is found horribly mutilated and with the word ‘don’t’ carved into her chest. Assigned to the case is DS Paterson, an obscenely wealthy man who is being fast-tracked through the police ranks. Tipped to go all the way to the top, Paterson is put in charge of what should be a routine investigation into the murder of a prostitute. As the story progresses things are not at all straightforward and, with the body count mounting, Paterson finds he is way out of his depth. Relying on his colleagues and determined to catch the killer, Paterson uses desperate measures to ensure a positive result.

Their Last Words is a police procedural story with a difference. It is told from the perspective of a privileged young officer who has never really had to fight for anything, always the golden boy. When he is put in charge of an investigation his naivety and inexperience show. Who turns up at a murder scene wearing Gucci and driving an Aston Martin? Parker manages to portray the arrogance and the insecurities of Paterson really well. At times I felt both sorry for him and irritated by him; the sign of good writing. The author’s development of the character of Paterson throughout the book gives the sense that his life is spiralling out of control. Again, I felt what happened to him at times served him right, whilst simultaneously thinking that it can’t get any worse (until it does) for the detective. Parker manages to develop a character that you like, dislike, empathise with, and are frustrated by, all at different times in the story and sometimes at the same time.

The development of Paterson’s character would not have been so successful if the other people around him had not also been written well. There is Johnny Clocks (nicknamed Timex) and Dave Jordan—both Detective Sergeants—assigned to the same case. Clocks is the obnoxious, crude, young up-and-coming detective and Jordan is the stalwart, by-the-book experienced officer—the voice of reason. Mr Parker is very good at letting the reader make up their own mind about how they should feel about a character, only to then throw a curve ball to turn that on its head. Very clever writing! In fact, all the characters, even the killer, are well-developed and complicated.

The writer makes a very brave decision; the reader and characters find out the killer’s identity halfway through the book. However, strangely, I actually enjoyed the story more from this point. The chase is convincing and exciting and unexpected, and there are twists right up to the very end. The murderer’s motive is credible and makes sense—not just to the killer—and isn’t so transparent that the reader can guess easily.

The only real criticism I have is the language. There is so much swearing, using some of the worst of the profanities. I do understand that my objection to their use is probably because of my age and upbringing, but I honestly do not see the need. However, this did not detract from the reading and I could ignore them most of the time.

Their Last Words is an excellent book, as long as you are okay with violence and vulgarities; it is well-written and enjoyable. Steve Parker is an exciting new writer who I can envisage having a very successful career if this is anything to go by. I can’t wait for his next novel.

Cassidy grew up in Thanet and lives here with her family.

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