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The Last Good Day    by Peter Blauner order for
Last Good Day
by Peter Blauner
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The beginning is dramatic - in a city still edgy and haunted by images of 9/11, Barry Schulman and other commuters watch in horror as the torso of a woman is washed up on the shores of the Hudson. Barry and his photographer wife Lynn have returned to her hometown of Riverside and built their dream home, 'A crazy quilt of memories and impressions, but somehow Lynn balanced them and made them all feel like parts of an organic whole, a place to lay your weary burden down.'

The author stews his story slowly, and the plot simmers as we discover that Lynn knew the murder victim well, and also has a history with Detective Lieutenant Michael Fallon from twenty-five years before. He seems to be obsessed with her and with unfinished business between them. And the pharmaceutical company where Barry is employed as a lawyer, and in which he has a large personal investment, looks to be in serious trouble. Why does he not tell his wife? There's a sleazy entrepeneur, corporate and police politics, and the good, the bad and the ugly of small town life.

This is a thriller on the noir side, in which you can see but not stop a horrific development of events. What struck me most strongly was not the story itself, but the author's perceptive commentary on the human condition. For example, he tells us that 'grief had its own inevitable arc. The shock and numbness, the faltering effort to carry on for everyone else's sake, and then the way your mind keeps circling back unexpectedly.' And Barry looks back on the victim's friendship with Lynn as 'one with real stretch marks and dirt under its nails.'

The Last Good Day is a novel that shows us relationships under extreme stress and how a collision of serendipitous events can lead to disaster for some good people, and to the strengthening of the fibre of others.

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