Friday, July 12, 2019

Review of Last Call by Paula Matter (2018, Midnight Ink)

Maggie Lewis works as a bartender at the local VFW in a small town in northern Florida. On her night off Korean war veteran Jack Hoffman is murdered in his truck in the car park after closing. The next morning she’s brought in for questioning by the local police chief given her hair band was found in the truck and her passcode used to enter the bar in the early hours. Released after questioning Maggie knows she’s still the chief suspect despite the wider evidence. She has little faith in the police to discover the real killer given that they failed to solve the murder of her husband two year’s previously and turns to her lodger, a former policeman who’s waiting on his PI license, for help. The two set out to discover who is trying to frame Maggie for murder, a course of action that neither the police nor the real killer appreciates.

Last Call charts Maggie Lewis’ attempt to prove she is innocent of the murder of one of her barflies in a VFW bar in northern Florida. The front cover describes the story as smart and funny, but unfortunately the tale is neither. The plot is a rather mundane whodunit set around the clientele of a bar and there’s no clever misdirection or twist, and the writing is rather workman-like and flat. Maggie Lewis comes across as angry and antsy and lacks a razor sharp wit needed to inject the needed humour. Which was a shame as there’s a lot of potential in the character – she’s down-to-earth, she lives hand-to-mouth barely keeping her head above water financially, and she’s hard-edged but vulnerable after the murder of her husband. She’s not too bright however, she lacks emotional intelligence, she’s not particularly likeable, and she blunders her way through a case she doesn’t actually solve leaving a trail of ruined lives through revealed secrets in her wake. None of that was exploited to its full potential. I was expecting a bit more sass and bite, but it was all too pedestrian and humdrum.

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