Having slightly surprised myself by how very much I enjoyed The Old You (you’ll find my review here), I was really rather looking forward to reading Louise Voss’s latest, The Last Stage. Published in paperback by Orenda Books on 11th July, it’s also available on e-book platforms and as an audiobook: my thanks to Karen Sullivan for my advance reading copy and to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to join the blog tour.
At the peak of her career as lead singer of a legendary 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now she lives incognito in a cottage on the grounds of Minstead House, an old stately home, whilst working in the gift shop. Her past is behind her and she enjoys her new life.
But a series of inexplicable and unsettling incidents have started to happen around her – broken china, vandalised gardens… And when a body is found in the gardens of Minstead House, Meredith realises that someone is watching, someone who knows who she is and who wants to destroy her…
A dark, riveting and chilling psychological thriller, The Final Stage is a study of secrets and obsessions, where innocent acts can have the most terrifying consequences.
I’m a bit of a wuss, and don’t read quite as many thrillers – psychological or otherwise – as many of my blogger friends: I usually like to read as an escape from reality, swerve away from the gritty, and perhaps sleep rather better as a result. But this book reminded me of what I’m missing, with that wonderful sense of exhilaration only the very best of thrillers can provide. I found this book totally impossible to put down, absolutely compulsive reading – I finished it at 2.30 in the morning because I just had to get to the end, and then spent the rest of the night with my heart pounding, hearing every creak and imagined footstep on the stairs as the house settled for the night…
The story is thoroughly excellent. After the striking prologue and the disturbing phone call from a character from the past, I think I might just have been lulled into a false sense of security by the stately home setting, the gardens, the gift shop, George the security guard, Meredith’s closeness to brother Pete – it felt like comfortable, familiar territory, so I (rather unwisely) let my guard down, and that made what ensued even more shocking. There’s a mysterious and violent incident in the present, and the book dips with ease into the legacy of the past – a really unexpected and different story, explaining Meredith’s fear of discovery and uncovering the reason for her unease and paranoia.
The chapters are short, always tempting you to read just one more, to perhaps reach that elusive point when you can breath easily again and return to it another day – but I never quite managed that, and just had to devour it all in one gulp. The writing is quite excellent, every character real and three-dimensional – and the whole book inexorably cranks up the tension towards its explosive and unexpected ending, moving between past and present, perfectly paced. I really liked too that the book’s resolution didn’t hinge on the ubiquitous twist, just on actions and their consequences – I always had the feeling that I really could have worked it all out for myself had I read rather more carefully, and that’s something I always particularly appreciate.
Enough – I don’t want to risk spoiling this one for anyone who hasn’t yet read it. But I thought it was quite stunning – and I very highly recommend it. And, lest you should worry, I’m pleased to tell you that my usual sleep pattern has now been restored… well, until Louise Voss’s next book entices me.
About the author
Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Her most recent book, The Old You, was a number one bestseller in eBook. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crime-writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.