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Friday, February 13, 2015

The Last Chapter by Edmund Power

I have finished the book I didn't need to read, The Last Chapter by Edmund Power, and I am very pleased I decided to dip into a second unnecessary book on Bookcase 7. As far as I am concerned The Last Chapter is almost the perfect book. Yet amazingly hardly anyone seems to have even read it - there isn't a single review of it on Amazon!

The story is simple. A struggling Irish writer discovers a manuscript in his dead neighbour's flat and decides to pass it off as his own work. Gradually his minor crime of plagiarism escalates and he ends up in all sorts of scrapes. I won't say too much because I don't want to spoil the story for anyone wanting to read The Last Chapter.

After reading several crime books on my tour so far where an "evil" villain is pursued by a "good" hero, it was good to have an account from the criminal's perspective. Edmund Power masterfully gets you, almost without realising it, to side with the villain in the book and see the people trying to uncover his crimes as interfering busybodies. You want him to get away with his plagiarism and turn his life around. Patricia Highsmith, one of my favourite writers, manages the same technique in all her books, to get you into the mind of the criminal - we're all potential criminals after all.

The Last Chapter though is nothing like Highsmith though, and it is very funny in places. I am not the sort of person to laugh out loud at books on trains, but I did so several times with this book. It's a moral tale I suppose as well, the message being that small crimes can soon grow into larger ones, and escalate far beyond the instigator's original intentions. I can't fault the characterisation, plot of style of writing at all, and I award it 9/10.
Of course, in the book, the novel that the writer tries to publish would inevitably be his last published work,  as he doesn't have the ability to write a second. Amazingly although this book was written a decade ago, it's never been succeeded by another! It's almost a though it foretold its own writer's fate. Please let me know if you know what happened to Edmund Power as it would be a tragedy if he wrote no more books, and even this, his one hit, seems to have been forgotten!

Anyway my readathon must go on and for my next book I had to select something from Bookcase 9, Crime and Thrillers (L-M). I was just excluded from Andy McNab on the grounds of having previously read something by the author (I enjoyed Brave Two Zero and soon got bored by his subsequent output). In the end I selected The Lie of You by Jane Lythell. It's a British "psychological thriller" (whatever that means), I'm not sure what it is about, but the cover and first few paragraphs appealed to me, so it's next on the agenda. Let's hope it is as good as The Last Chapter!

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