First of all, what a prologue. Short but very effective and I was glad I wasn’t reading it in bed.

The Last Stage is a clever title, a play on words. Meredith Vincent was part of a band that was once huge. She was the lead singer and in the ’80s and ’90s the band, Cohen, was riding high. Why then did she suddenly decide to leave it all behind to work as a gift shop manager in a stately home, living in a remote cottage on the grounds? The last stage could be the last time she was on a stage, howling out lyrics. Or it could be the last stage in her life.

For somebody seems out to get Meredith and to ruin her much cultivated anonymity and virtually reclusive life. When one of her friends turns up dead and all sorts of small incidents start to add up, she realises that an attack on her years earlier may not have been the last one.

I liked Meredith very much as a character. She was very closed off in many ways but understandably so as she had suffered a huge trauma in the past. She’s very close to her twin brother, Pete, but apart from that friends and family are practically non-existent. I think she just pushed everyone away.

I have to mention the setting. Whilst Greenham Common and a squat in London in the ’80s form a small part of the setting, the major part is the stately home where Meredith lives and works. I thought this was inspired and so interesting. The grounds are busy in the day but deserted at night and so Meredith is very much alone there a lot of the time which added to the tension. I also find the idea of working in such a place fascinating, surrounded by opulence and history.

There’s a sense of something brewing all the way through the book until the conclusion when all is revealed. I didn’t see it coming at all, the sign of a well-written story. I did also find myself giggling once or twice at some of the things that were said or which happened. Whilst not a funny book, there’s sometimes a sharp edge to the writing that really amused me.

The Last Stage is a fantastic psychological thriller and I enjoyed it such a lot. It’s skilfully plotted with a cast of really interesting characters, a great storyline and a fabulous denouement.

Nicola Smith, Short Book and Scribes, 4/4

The Last Stage by Louise Voss
Orenda Books 9781912374878 pbk Jul 2019