Published: January 2020 by Montlake
Category: Suspense, Romance, Book Review
Twenty years ago Emily Mills’s father was murdered, and she found his body hanging in the backyard. Her younger sister, Madison, claims she was asleep in her room. Her older sister, Tara, claims she was out with friends. The tragedy drove their mother to suicide and Tara to leave town forever. The killer was caught. The case closed.
Ever since, Emily and Madison have tried to forget what happened that night—until an eerily similar murder brings it all back. It also brings FBI special agent Zander Wells to the Oregon logging town. As eager as he is to solve the brutal double slaying, he is just as intrigued with the mystery of Emily’s and her sisters’ past.
When more blood is shed, Zander suspects there’s a secret buried in this town no one wants unearthed. Is it something Emily and Madison don’t know? Or aren’t telling? And Tara? Maybe Emily can’t bear to find her. Because when Tara disappeared, she took a secret of her own with her.
A small town in Oregon is about to give up its dark and deadly secrets.
This first book in the Columbia River series features FBI Agent Zander Wells from the Callahan and McLane series, although it’s not necessary to have read that series in order to enjoy this book. He and FBI Agent Ava McLane arrive in the small rural town of Bartonville to investigate the suspicious deaths of residents Sean and Lindsay Fitch, who moved to Bartonville a year ago when Sean secured a teaching position at the local high school.
Emily Mills runs Barton’s Diner with her younger sister, Madison and their small staff, one of which is Lindsay Fitch. When Lindsay doesn’t show up for work one morning, and after phoning several times with no answer, Emily drives over to their house, thinking Lindsay has probably overslept, but instead finds a horrifying scene.
She wrapped her shaking fingers in the hem of her sweater to avoid damaging any fingerprints as she slid open the rear patio door, following the trail of blood. Outside it was dark, daybreak still a few hours away, and the air was cold with the coast’s salty mist.
Taking into account the murder of Emily’s father twenty years ago, and the fact that Shaun was African American, Zander and Eva suspect race/hate crimes. The sheriff’s conclusion that it must have been a murder/suicide held no weight at all with the agents, or with Emily for that matter. The Fitches murder brings back terrible memories for Emily and Madison of their father’s hanging, followed by their mother’s death and sister’s disappearance.
The dark history of the area, and how it relates to the present is about to be exposed, along with secrets that have been kept for years brought to light. The characters are realistic and well rounded with backstories to flesh them out. There are several storylines which at first seem unrelated but are woven together as the plot evolves.
Romance is definitely a background theme at the moment, and although there’s an obvious attraction between Zander and Emily, the story focusses on the crimes and the well plotted mystery behind them. The sense of place is very apparent and I loved the descriptions of the old mansion and the three eccentric great aunts. A solid start to a new series with twists and surprises along the way.
My thanks to Jennifer Richards for the invitation to join the tour. I chose to read and review The Last Sister based on an advance reading copy supplied by NetGalley.