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The Last Child    by John Hart order for
Last Child
by John Hart
Order:  USA  Can
St. Martin's, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

The Last Child tells the story of thirteen year old Johnny Merrimon. He is old beyond his years and street smart because of the abduction of his twin sister Alyssa. It happened one year ago and has forever changed him. His mother blamed his father for not picking her up from school. Soon afterwards his father disappeared and it broke Johnny's heart. Now his mother has turned to drugs and booze to forget the heartache of losing a daughter and the husband who deserted them. She has been dating a wealthy man who is abusive and controlling and whom Johnny doesn't trust.

Johnny has been searching the rural North Carolina county on his own with maps and his bicycle. He has been going door to door talking to people and observing their movements. He spends time in the seedier side of town where sex offenders live in run down houses and abandoned trailers. Johnny is helped by his best friend Jack Cross, who drinks and smokes like an adult. Jack is the son of a local cop and claims he saw an old white van driving alongside Alyssa as she walked home that fateful day. Johnny has another friend, Detective Clyde Hunter, who has been working the case from the start. His dedication has cost him his wife, and his career is on the line as his other work is neglected. He has been watching over Johnny and his mother and tries to persuade Johnny to stop his search and leave it to the police.

When another young girl goes missing, the town is gripped by fear. The police try to solve the case and hope it will shed more light on Alyssa's disappearance. Johnny is determined in his search and stumbles on an attempted murder. The victim, a young local man, provides Johnny with information that leads him to the latest victim and a terrible, grisly discovery for the police. Knowing he must continue on, Johnny becomes involved with a gentle giant of a man, Levi, who has the mentality of a child. He is wanted for multiple murders, but talks to Johnny and leads him on a chase through the back woods of town. It is Johnny who eventually learns the truth about his sister and reveals all to the police. The Last Child is a fast paced thriller and Hart's best work to date.

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