Thursday Thriller Audio: Every Last Fear by Alex Finlay
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (March 2, 2021)
Length: 10 hrs and 57 mins
Author Information: Website
Narrators: Cady McClain, Jon Lindstrom
Describing Every Last Fear as a mystery action thriller would be accurate, but also overly simplistic. At the center of this novel is the tragic tale of the Pine family. Years ago, when he was still a senior in high school, eldest son Danny Pine was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his girlfriend Charlotte—a crime his parents are convinced he did not commit. However, despite their efforts to have him released and even a popular true crime documentary suggesting that it was a wrongful conviction, it seems like Danny will stay behind bars for a very long time, and it is slowly tearing the Pines apart.
But for Matt, the second son, the matter is a lot more complicated. For unlike the rest of his family, he isn’t convinced that Danny is innocent. The night Charlotte died, he witnessed something he’s never told anyone else—something that makes him believe that it was his older brother who killed her. Now a student at NYU, Matt has a difficult relationship with his family. So when his mom, dad, sister and little brother took off for an impromptu vacation to Mexico, he didn’t occur to him to question it—until one night, upon returning to his dorm room after a party, he receives the devastating news: all four of them had been found dead from an apparent gas leak in their hotel cottage. Everything points to it being an accident, but Matt has the feeling the FBI and State Department aren’t telling him everything.
Gradually, the full story unfolds through the POVs of several characters, and via past and present timelines. As the book opens, Matt has just received the news of the deaths and is reeling from the shock and grief. We follow him to Mexico to retrieve the bodies, while back in the States, FBI Agent Sarah Keller attempts to determine how the Pines really died, and why. Danny Pine had made headlines all those years for killing Charlotte, and now this. It can’t all be a coincidence, can it? Threaded through Matt and Keller’s narratives are also the POVs of Matt’s parents, Evan and Olivia, as well as his teenage sister, Maggie. Their perspectives make up the “past” timeline, detailing the events that led them to Mexico in the first place. Evan Pine has never stopped trying to prove Danny’s innocence, and ever since Maggie became old enough, she has joined him in this quest. After receiving a mysterious lead that they believe will get Danny exonerated, the Pines throw together a hastily planned tip to Tulum, thus sealing their fates.
Every Last Fear is a mystery first and foremost, but it also contains elements of an international or political thriller. It is also the story of a family’s tragedy, and I must say reading this novel weighed very heavily on my heart, knowing that half the characters I was following were already dead. Evan, Olivia, and Maggie’s POVs definitely made their flashback chapters feel more poignant, and I was especially heartbroken about Maggie, at the loss of this bright, enthusiastic and mature young woman and all of her vibrant potential.
At the same time, I believe it’s this back-and-forth between past and present that made this story work as well as it did. Taking full advantage of this format, the author doles out information bit by bit, using impeccable timing to coordinate significant developments between the two timelines. Events in the past and present gradually layered on top of each other, with clues being slipped in between, until they eventually build up to the finale where all answers are revealed.
In fact, I probably would have given Every Last Fear a higher rating, except that I predicted a major part of the ending. I get it; it’s a careful balancing act, trying to reveal just enough for the plot to make sense without giving too much away, and maybe I just got lucky by stumbling upon a couple hints that I felt were too obvious, but of course your mileage may vary. On the whole, the writing is engaging and the storytelling is admirably well-paced and tight, and I think most thriller fans will find great enjoyment out of this novel.
Audiobook Comments: Impressive performances by narrators Cady McClain and Jon Lindstrom, who gave life to the characters and made me think this book would make an excellent movie!