It’s not easy being the baddie: erasing evidence; disposing of bodies in ever increasingly different and hard-to-find ways; watching out for CCTV cameras; researching into the intended victim’s routine and every move; thinking of an imaginatively appropriate method of killing them… seriously, it is exhausting. This last one was particularly tricky – getting the tube of Pringles inserted into their fundement, and getting Sniffles the gerbil to actually go inside, was way harder than he imagined it would be – but that makes it all the more satisfying in the end. Now he gets to settle back and bask in a job well done. After all, they had it coming to them and no one is going to cry after them once he tells everyone what they were really like. As always, he uncorks a bottle of his favourite red wine, opens a new packet of Tunnock’s Tea Cakes (for some reason Pringles no longer appeal), and settles down to celebrate in his own little way. The tea cakes are sticky and delicious as always, and as he takes a sip of wine – raising a small toast to the forever traumatised, reluctant, and now sweetcorn averse, accomplice Sniffles, who hasn’t even touched his celebratory teacake – he mentally goes back through the moments immediately after the kill, and, in a moment of clarity – or Clarety, if you will – he spits out the wine in a spray covering the packet of Tunnock’s and the the table in front of him.
He’s forgotten something.
He’s left something behind at the scene of the crime. Something he was not supposed to.
He left behind….a blurb.
She’s chasing a killer. He’s watching her every move.
He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.
Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career—and she knows that it will make or break her. But she can’t catch the culprit alone. Together with facial recognition expert Joe Russell, she strives to get a lead on the elusive murderer, who is always one step ahead of them.
Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?
What would your last move be?
If the world was going to end next Tuesday, or possibly Thursday – the end of the world is a notoriously fickle thing; how many doomsday cults have there been, and how many prophets, ancient civilisations and nay-sayers, have predicted the end of the world only for them to be wearing egg on the other side of their faces? Huh? exactly – what would you choose your very last move to be?
Would it be something daringly brave and out of character? Say, breaking in to the M&M World in London’s Leicester Square and stealing all of the blue ones? Then running out shouting, “I’m not paying for these you know? I’m not!” and laughing nefariously as you gambol and skip gaily through the Square scattering blue M&M’s everywhere just because you can?
Or would you go full on naughty? Like, say, going into the Lego Store opposite the M&M centre and smashing up all the big old Lego statues and models that some poor bugger with no social life and friends anymore had laboriously, and most likely lovingly, assembled, stood back from, smiled at a job well done, vowing to swear off Lego forever and to hand his notice in the very next day, but never realising that in all of his born days the end of the world was just around the corner and some utter eejit would come in with a ruddy great lump hammer and, with a face stained with blue M&M colouring, smash the whole lot up. Ha, how you would laugh as you think of his face falling and imagine the string of obscenities issuing forth from his foaming mouth as you once again gambol gaily from the shop and scatter Lego bricks across the Square to land amongst the blue M&Ms that you scattered there earlier, just because you could.
You would also get the added enjoyment out of thinking of all of those people rushing out in their bare feet in an argh-the-end-of-the-world-is-actually-here panic and treading on all of those Lego pieces and getting blue M&Ms stuck between their toes and under their toenails.
Oh, dear Beardy Blog Fan, you are a very naughty person. *laughs up sleeve at the thought of it all*
What would my last move be, I hear you ask?
Hmmm, I’m not sure that I am naughty enough to do either of those things. I am a simple, honest blogger, with a simple and honest beard. Heaven forfend that I would lower myself to the level of common scum and do anything remotely illegal. Oh, alright then, I’ll have a think.
Ok, maybe, and just maybe, I would sneak into a WH Smiths and read all of their magazines…..without actually paying for any of them? Nah, we all do that already.
Hmmmm *pondering emoji* maybe I would get onto a tubular train and sit on a seat whilst putting my feet up on the opposite seat with my shoes still on!
Woah there! I had a rush of adrenaline just thinking about that one. Oof, I need to recover myself here.
Ok, I’m alright. So, if the world was to end you could make any move your last because it really wouldn’t matter in the long run. Unless the world didn’t end and then you would look like a real wally. You see, this is what would prevent me from going all out psycho nut job; the fear of it all coming to nothing. The fear that the asteroid would pass us by. Or that the cure for the disease killing everyone on the planet in a violent and hideously painful fashion would be found in the nick of time. And then where would I be, huh? Pish, it isn’t worth thinking about. No, my last move, should the end of the world come to pass, would probably be to get shit faced in a nice cosy pub somewhere, listening to Queen on shuffle and, like Shaun in ‘Shaun Of The Dead‘, just wait for it all to blow over. Maybe I would have a bit of the other too. You know, just because. Not in the pub in front of everyone of course. It may be the end of the world, but no one need to see that. I do have some dignity.
So, what has all of this got to do with John Marrs’s book of the same name, “Her Last Move“?
Absolutely sod all.
I was just wondering, as you do.
So what is Her Last Move all about then if it isn’t an end of the world tale of debauchery and illegal shenanigans?
It’s a brilliantly tense and compelling tale about murder, revenge and getting one up on the coppers, is what it is. Amongst other things.
John Marrs has been a favourite author of mine since I read his book, The One. After that I read When You Disappeared (previously published as The Wronged Sons) and The Good Samaritan. I cannot recommend each of these books enough. The only book of his that I have yet to read is Welcome To Wherever You Are, and that was only because I don’t want to run out of John Marrs books. True story. I have it on my shelf, but I can’t bring myself to read it just yet because when I do I’ll have no more John to read until his next book, and that makes me a sad beardy book blogger. *sad face with single tear emoji*
When I was presented with the opportunity to read Her Last Move for this blog tour I squealed with delight, removed all of my clothes, and headed to my nearest Lego store to smash up some shit. I didn’t get very far, and after the ensuing legalities surrounding some jumped up public nudity offences – I did have a tea cloth wrapped around my head in a Rambo-bandana-stylee, so I wasn’t totally naked, but the police and Outraged Of Hatfield didn’t see it that way – I returned home to cry a little at my foolishness, and to squeal internally and settle down to read the proof.
There’s always that little internal worry that the next book by one of your favourite authors is going to be, well, shit. You build yourself up, Tweet the shizz out of it before you’ve read it, Instagram yourself reading it in a cosy cafe, in your garden, on the toilet, over your shoulder whilst indulging in carnal pleasures, whatever, and finding out that it is a pile of old poopingtons and egg is firmly in alignment with your not-so-smug visage.
So, it was with some trepidation that I opened my Kindle and placed an overexcited finger onto the screen to open John’s latest book.
Ah, who am I even kidding here? I had NO such trepidations, as I had every faith in the Johnster, and BOY has he delivered. Not literally; I downloaded it from Netgalley, but if he had’ve delivered it personally I would probably have kissed him and then held him captive until I was forced to release him and then having to blog this from my inevitable prison cell. Possibly naked.
I have no idea where all of this talk of nakedness has come from, btw. May I apologise for any searing images that you may now have upon your cranial retinas.
Sooooo, back to the review *pulls on pants*
Her Last Move is a slight departure from John’s other novels in that this is his first police procedural. One of the first things we discover in HLM is that we know who the killer is from the outset. Kinda. At least we know they’re the killer, though their identity and the reasoning for their killing spree is left to unfold as the book progresses.
The story is told through the eyes of our two protagonists DS Becca Vincent and DS Joe Russell, and one antagonist, our baddie, Mr. Ouchie McMurderFace.
Ok, ok, that may not be his his real name, you’ll find that out for yourself, but I shall call him Ouchie.
The book kicks off with a murder. Initially to the police it looks like the victim, following an altercation with a fellow passenger on a crowded platform on the District Line of London’s overcrowded tube network, falls onto the line and under an oncoming train. However, we, the dear reader, know different. The poor unsuspecting sod was drugged first by our nefarious villain, Ouchie McMurderFace!
Dun Dun Dunnnnnnnnnnnn……!!!!!
Enter the first of our two – yes police procedural fans, there are two – Detective Sergeants, DS Becca Vincent: a single mother who relies heavily on her mother for most of life’s daily chores: such as shopping; collecting her daughter from school; attending parent’s evenings, etc, whilst Becca is busy Detective Sergeant-ing and trying to further her career and keep her job. Her daughter, Maisie, has Down’s Syndrome and needs a level of care and stability that Becca finds hard to find to time to give. Her mother, Helen, is extremely patient with Becca, but her goodwill is beginning to run out as Becca increasingly leaves her daughter’s well-being behind. In Her Last Move John tackles head on how difficult it can be for a single mother to juggle her home life, the needs of a child with special needs and a desire to do well at her job and to succeed.
Enter our second DS (I know right, it’s like a BOGOF of detective sergeants; a BOGODSF), one Joe Russell. Joe is one of the Met’s Super Recognisers. A super what now, I hear you ask? Why, I think I do. Well, a Super Recogniser is someone who has a remarkable memory, and recollection, for faces. Here is a little article in The Guardian about them. (as far as I am aware, they do not wear their underwear over their trousers or wear a cape. At least not publicly). Whereas most of us mere mortals can recognise, and remember, around 20% of the faces we see, a Super Recogniser can recognise up to 80%. That’s a lot of fizzogs. I imagine it would be a bit like having a mental Rolodex; flipping through the images in a blur and then stopping on the right one.
Joe is part of an elite team who work silently, patiently, and mostly anonymously, watching countless hours of CCTV footage, scouring photographs, looking for people who stand out for one reason or another or are wanted by the police. Becca joins up with Joe to go through the tube station’s CCTV footage to attempt to identify an individual to ascertain whether the man fell due to an accident or was actually pushed.
Our final major player is old Ouchie himself (It does have a certain ring to it as you’ll see when you read the book). Ouchie is a sly and extremely devious criminal; always one step ahead of the police (you’d think he’d stay one step behind them, wouldn’t you? That way they wouldn’t see him. Anyway.). We know from the outset what he is up to, even if the reasoning is unclear. You see, Ouchie has a meticulous plan; a list of people he want’s to do very ouchie things to in the most fatal of manners, and nothing must stop him from seeing it through. Seriously, he has taken a lot of time over this. He’s gonna be pretty miffed if he someone comes along and mucks it up. Wouldn’t you be?
Together they play a deadly game of leopard and impala as Ouchie outhinks and outplays them every step of the way, leading Joe and Becca deeper and deeper into his game.
Her Last Move is a very uneasy read at times; John doesn’t shy away from the more graphic details of Ouchie’s crimes, and he tackles some particularly challenging themes head on throughout. The one that stood out for me was that of domestic abuse; it features heavily in HLM. All three of our major characters have experienced it in some shape or form: Becca’s sister Emma was murdered by her abusive partner; Joe’s father was violent and abusive to his mother, and when they finally left he tracked them down; and Ouchie was the product of a violent upbringing from his mother, a trait which he seems to have inherited. These are powerful backstories, all of which echo into their current lives, affecting them in ways that resonate throughout the novel.
Another overreaching theme throughout Her Last Move is revenge. Ouchie is clearly motivated by this, but why and towards whom? well, you’ll have to read it to find out.
Her Last Move is an intelligently and craftily written novel. There is so much going on here. Mr. Marrs is a clever and perceptive writer; weaving well drawn and believable characters into his twisting and winding narrative. There were many times where I had the rug well and truly pulled from under me, leaving me spinning in the air like some kind of Loony Tunes character, only to come crashing down and then being hit around the head with the same rug. The story twists and turns more times than a bowl of spaghetti, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll have just as much luck trying to unravel said bowl of spaghetti than figure out John’s plot 😉
Her Last Move is a tightly plotted, twisting and twisted, emotional, tense and at times devastating story of revenge, betrayal, tragic loss and of the consequences of domestic abuse on those it is meted out to. It’ll have you throwing the book across the room in shock/disgust/alarm, only for you to rush over to pick it up again as you have to read the next chapter. It will break your heart. There will be late nights. It may not be an easy read at times, but it sure as shit is a brilliant one. 👌
Her Last Move is out in paperback and ebook NOW!
Do you want to know a wee bit more about John Marrs? You do? Amaze beans 😍 then read on dear reader, read on:
John Marrs is the author of #1 bestsellers The One (soon to be made into a film with Urban Myth Films), The Good Samaritan (shortlisted for the Dead Good Reader Awards 2018), When You Disappeared, and Welcome to Wherever You Are. After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, he is now a full-time writer.
Her Last Move is dedicated to John’s late father, Charlie, who was a police officer for 25 years.
Follow John on the following social media platforms:
You can purchase Her Last Move at any of the following (or in an actual physical bookshop of your choosing):
My biggest and sincerest thanks to John Marrs and Emma Welton (Damppebbles blog tours), and to Emma Finnigan for inviting me on to this blog tour and for my copy of the book. Some wee-wee was liberated from my bladder on receiving the invite.
Make sure to check out all of the other awesome bloggers on this tour for more reviews and brilliant content throughout November. If you don’t then I’ll send Ouchie round to have words.