When you’re reading a mystery, do you try to solve the mystery? Not only whodunit, but often the how and why too. If you’re like me, you do. How I judge the plot of the book depends on how well the author hides the final outcome and how he or she does it. If I’m only halfway done with the book and I’m sure the butler did it and have a good idea of why, I’m not going to be happy. I’ll also feel cheated if at the climax the villain makes their first appearance and we find out the details are all things that we had no idea about until then. We need to be able to look back and realize the clues were there for us to piece together, just like they were for the protagonist, but they can’t be so obvious that we figure it out too early.
"Last Call" hit the mark in this regard. At one point I thought I’d solved the mystery. I’d identified a motive and a likely culprit and done so too early. But what I saw was a “red herring.” It was a piece of the puzzle, but misleading. When the critical piece of the puzzle was revealed at an appropriate time, I realized I’d never seen it coming, yet the clues were there had I been able to put them together. This is how a mystery should be plotted.
I also liked the character of Ridley Brone. His flaws, as much as his talents, make him interesting. That he tries (and sometimes fails) to do the right thing makes him that much more human. This is a character that is a good foundation for Cornell’s planned series.
Unfortunately, "Last Call" also suffered from substandard copyediting and proofing, for which I deducted one star.
**Originally written for "Books and Pals" book blog. May have received a free review copy. **