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Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas

Last Seen Alive (2018)

by Claire Douglas

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Good idea riff on house swap shenanigans but the women were so toxic to each other and the men just sort of clueless passive lumps. ( )
  angelaelectric | Oct 4, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Wow. This was a great book. If you’re into psychological thrillers then you’ll love this. I’m usually pretty good about figuring out what’s going on or where the book is going pretty early on but this one surprised me. It surprised me a few times to be honest. There’s a lot of twists and turns in this book. I had a lot of fun reading this and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. I won this book in a giveaway and I’m sure glad I got the chance to read this. ( )
  JessVillafane | Sep 7, 2018 |
Some books are great from the very beginning, sucking you into its pages and not letting you go until the final sentence. Some books are simply terrible from the beginning; these are the ones you know are never going to improve and you quickly decide there is no need to finish them. Then there are the books like Last Seen Alive wherein there is more than enough evidence that the story and the characters are going nowhere so you decide to skim to see if it improves, and it does. These types of books are sneaky things, twisting your perceptions and making you question every book you previously opted to quit reading. They add fuel to your hope that every book that appears to be terrible will improve and make it difficult to quit reading the next book that fits into this category.

The thing is, while Last Seen Alive does significantly improve as the story progresses, and actually becomes quite impressive with its plot twists, I am still not a fan of the overall story. Yes, there are twists that came out of nowhere and blew my mind with their creativity. Yes, I did end up finishing the entire novel, and yes, I am glad I stuck with it so that I can evaluate the story in its entirety. Yet, I do not look back on the reading experience with fondness.

Unfortunately, my dislike of Libby stands in my way of completely enjoying Last Seen Alive. We spend most of the novel inside Libby’s head; plot twists aside, if you do not like what you find there, it does taint your reading experience. I am not a Libby fan. I find her whiny and weak, prone to repetitiveness and inaction. She spends most of the novel pitying herself or frozen in fear. She is also the type of character who looks for problems where none exist, in this case with her husband and their still-new marriage. Self-sabotage never sits well with me, especially when it comes to relationships, and Libby continues to pick and doubt up until the end. Had my feelings been more sympathetic towards Libby, I know my feelings about the entire novel would be different. As it is, because she is the main narrator of the novel, not liking her character prevented me from enjoying it.

I can hear you know. “But Michelle, you cannot like every main character. There are some that are simply unlikeable!” Yes, this is true. However, Libby is not one of those characters. She is, by design, the sympathetic one, the one for whom you are supposed to cheer, the one who receives the happy ending because she deserves it. She is not deliciously evil nor remotely pathological in any manner. She is the proverbial princess around whom the story revolves. I only wish she was a sociopath. At least there would then be some depth to her character. Instead, I find her insipid and uninteresting, something that does not change no matter how many secrets about her we learn.

I wish I could say that the revealed secrets and plot twists of Last Seen Alive changed my overall impression of the story, but I cannot. The fact of the matter is that even after the biggest reveal, I continued to skim the story. Skipping entire chapters appears to be the only way I was able to finish the novel. Setting aside my dislike of the main character for a moment, the other big reason I struggled with the story is its slow pacing. Skipping from chapter to chapter served to reinforce this impression because I lost nothing in the skipping. It is as if one chapter held all the action and the chapter immediately following it held nothing but exposition about or a recap of the action. At no point in time while skimming was I confused, lost, or found I had to go back to discover what I was missing. At the time, it meant that I was fervently reading because the action was all I was seeing. Looking back on it several weeks after the fact though, all I can imagine is how bored I would have been had I been reading it more slowly and reading every chapter. It should not be so easy to skip huge swaths of a novel without losing a single piece of information.

For me, Last Seen Alive is quite the mixed bag. On the one hand, I stand by my statement that the story significantly improves with a killer plot twist that makes me glad I stuck with it. On the other hand, while the plot may have improved, the main character did not, and my dislike of her was an obstacle I could not overcome when it comes to enjoying the story. This just goes to show you that no matter how much we might wish to enjoy something, wishes do not always come true.
  jmchshannon | Aug 22, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
From the very beginning, is clear something is going on between the characters; it's just not clear what it is since everything seems (mostly) normal. As I kept reading, I continued to grow more curious, waiting for something to happen. There's a point where none of the facts seem to make any sense, and I was relentlessly trying to piece something together that sort of made sense.

It's been a while since I've needed to put a book down because it gave me too much anxiety (especially as an animal lover). But hey, if it's good enough to be terrified of, it's probably a pretty good book, right? Or so I kept telling myself. Regardless, I kept picking it back up. After the house swap, things got less terrifying, more weird, and more like what I'd expect from a thriller/mystery.

There were a lot of unexpected twists, and it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. The epilogue provided more questions than answers, and it didn't really give me (enough) closure. Overall, I think it's a great book and is definitely worth the read!

I received a free ARC of this book. ( )
  jesskahlow | Jul 29, 2018 |
Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas is a recommended psychological thriller.

Libby Hall and her husband Jamie both need a vacation. When there is an offer to swap houses with a couple, the Haywoods, they decide to take a chance on it. Libby and Jamie can't believe their luck when instead of a seaside cottage, they have swapped staying in their flat in Bath to stay at a lovely seaside estate in Cornwall. Soon, though, some disquieting discoveries are made and disconcerting events seem to be happening. When Jamie falls ill and then is rushed to the hospital, it marks the beginning of a change in their plans.

After they return to Bath, odd things begin to happen. It seems the Haywoods may have wished them harm. Libby is becoming paranoid, wondering if Jamie is keeping a secret from her, but Libby has some secrets she has been keeping from Jamie. This is just the beginning of the twists and turns that await you.

On the positive side for those who like psychological thrillers there are plenty of revelations and secrets to be revealed in this novel. It opens with a woman killing her husband, so you know something is going to go wrong. The writing is good; Douglas takes care to explore the psychological aspects of her characters, especially Libby's paranoia. She helps the reader gain some sympathy for Libby, as she is still privately grieving over her lost child after a miscarriage, which was caused by a very public heroic act.

Last Seen Alive started out interesting, but then it started to become a bit too unbelievable. And, again, when Libby wouldn't talk about and hadn't told Jamie what happened in Thailand (the novel will tell you) I already sussed out what was going to be the big reveal. What I really wondered was why would anyone leave personal information out and accessible to people they have never met when doing a house swap, especially if you are already generally suspicious and paranoid about people? Any why wouldn't you met these people first? This sort of marked the beginning of some rather forced revelations/twists.

In my final evaluation, Last Seen Alive would be a satisfying vacation read. Certainly it is a decent airplane book that will hold your attention, but you won't cry if you misplace it along the way.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
http://www.shetreadssoftly.com/2018/07/last-seen-alive.html ( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Jul 22, 2018 |
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"Libby Hall needs to hide, to escape from a personal and public tragedy. Which is why the house swap with the Heywoods is a godsend. Libby can't believe her and her husband, Jamie's, good fortune in exchanging their tiny city flat for a beautiful haven on the English coast. But before they can begin to relax and work to heal their fragile marriage, Libby makes some disturbing discoveries about the house. The peace and isolation of the getaway begin to feel threatening. How alone are they? Why does she feel like someone is watching them? When it appears that even Jamie is hiding something from her, Libby's paranoia gets the best of her. It should. For she has buried secrets of her own. As the past comes crawling out of the darkness, Libby fears she's walked into an elaborate trap. But who has set it? What do they want of her? And how far is she willing to go to keep her past deeds hidden?"--… (more)

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