16 January 2017


Synopsis (Quercus)

No one keeps more secrets. No one is better at hiding them.

Haunting, evocative and beautifully written, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN will grab you and not let you go until the last page. Full of twists and turns, with an ending you will never see coming and characters that will stay with you long after the book is finished, THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is a gripping psychological mystery perfect for fans of Emma Cline's THE GIRLS and Clare Mackintosh's I SEE YOU.

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she's found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close 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 Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life. . .

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.

My Take

Each chapter has a heading like this: HATTIE / Saturday, March 22, 2008.
The first part of the heading tells the reader who is telling this part of the story, and the second, of course, is the date of their telling. Quite often I ignore chapter headings but in this case they are the clue not only to the timeline of the story, but also to who is speaking. Part of the reader's job is to get the timeline in order.

We see the action and events from three points of view, and of course the character who is speaking doesn't always know what the other characters know. This lets the reader fill in the gaps and accumulate what looks like a complete picture.

Hattie Hoffman has always envisaged that she will escape the claustrophobia of her home town . She wants to become an actress and go to New York. In a sense she has always been an actress: she herself recognises that she is always playing a part, changing like a chameleon according what her audience, her friends, her parents, want or expect to see.

So this is the story of Hattie's coming of age, but even as Hattie falls in love, she is playing a part, and tries to manipulate those around her, seriously underestimating the impact she is having on those around her. Her own expectations are a combination of immaturity and her growing sexuality. Hattie has a lot of secrets, and those closest to her are amazed at what comes out when Sheriff Del Goodman investigates the circumstances surrounding her death.

And just when I thought the plot was sorted, there was a very peculiar twist.

My rating: 4.5

About the author

Mindy Mejia was born and raised in Minnesota, and has held a succession of jobs, from apple orchard labourer to global credit manager. THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN is her first novel to be published in the UK. Find out more at www.mindymejia.com

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