Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
A new publication by Danuta Reah, [or her alternate identity Carla Banks] remains a treat for the insightful crime / thriller reader. Her work striates startling and ‘up to the minute’ plots that make the reader pause; and think beyond the narrative, and contemplate their link to the reality around us.
With the contemporary world [as ever] in geopolitical turmoil, we find The Last Room reflecting this, in a very disturbing tale of the reality that is often masked under [what former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara described as] ‘the fog of war’. The backstory is the Balkan War[s], though the lineage for that conflict, and this disturbing novel is further in time, back to WW2 [and African civil wars].
The opening is a terse, gruelling snatch of a vicious attack on a pregnant woman on Africa’s war-torn Ivory Coast in 2005. This sets the scene for a complex novel which questions if there can ever be any absolute truth, when as McNamara indicated, war masks everyone’s actions and deeds until it is all but secrets, lies and misinformation that mask the motivations of those at its core concealing the truth in the fog that crawls along a battlefield.
Moving to 2007 Europe, we follow the aftermath of the suicide of Dr Ania Milosz, an expert witness involved in the conviction of a child killer, Derek Haynes, who is appealing against his conviction for the murder of six-year old Sagal Akindes [daughter of aforementioned, brutalised Asylum Seeker from the Ivory Coast].
Neither, Ania’s father, retired Policeman Will [Gillen], nor her fiancé Dariusz Erland believe that the linguistics expert jumped to her death, and so starts a trail that snakes its way to the deeds of the past, deeds that some wish to remain hidden in the fog, that is war.
Reah’s narrative is propelled by short, concise chapters that make the reader plough through the novel like a bullet-train, as it snakes its way to Lodz, in Poland, and the link to Nazism, and that of the occupied peoples during World War Two. Darius and Will uncover uncomfortable truths in their journey, that forces one to remember that the beauty and majesty of modern Europe, are constructed upon the graveyards of the dead; many murdered in the name of war, genocide and hidden under the dense clouds of fog that Robert McNamara described so vividly. Highly recommended and topical for those who enjoy their crime fiction that challenges, and helps reveal what really goes on in the reality that surrounds, when evil people motivate others to carry out the unspeakable, all under a cloak of deceit, a fog if you will.