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John Hart

The Last Child

John Hart The Last Child
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Winner of the 2010 Edgar Award for Best Novel

John Hart’s New York Times bestselling debut, The King of Lies, announced the arrival of a major talent. With Down River, he surpassed his earlier success, transcending the barrier between thriller and literature and winning the 2008 Edgar Award for best novel. Now, with The Last Child, he achieves his most significant work to date, an intricate, powerful story of loss, hope, and courage in the face of evil.

Thirteen year-old Johnny Merrimon had the perfect life: a warm home and loving parents; a twin sister, Alyssa, with whom he shared an irreplaceable bond. He knew nothing of loss, until the day Alyssa vanished from the side of a lonely street. Now, a year later, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he’d been taught since birth to trust. No one else believes that Alyssa is still alive, but Johnny is certain that she is---confident in a way that he can never fully explain.

Determined to find his sister, Johnny risks everything to explore the dark side of his hometown. It is a desperate, terrifying search, but Johnny is not as alone as he might think. Detective Clyde Hunt has never stopped looking for Alyssa either, and he has a soft spot for Johnny. He watches over the boy and tries to keep him safe, but when Johnny uncovers a dangerous lead and vows to follow it, Hunt has no choice but to intervene.

Then a second child goes missing . . .

Undeterred by Hunt’s threats or his mother’s pleas, Johnny enlists the help of his last friend, and together they plunge into the wild, to a forgotten place with a history of violence that goes back more than a hundred years. There, they meet a giant of a man, an escaped convict on his own tragic quest. What they learn from him will shatter every notion Johnny had about the fate of his sister; it will lead them to another far place, to a truth that will test both boys to the limit.

Traveling the wilderness between innocence and hard wisdom, between hopelessness and faith, The Last Child leaves all categories behind and establishes John Hart as a writer of unique power.

Praise for The Last Child:

“With his best novel yet, the Edgar Award-winning Hart (Down River) firmly cements his place alongside the greats of the genre.” –Library Journal (starred review)

“John Hart's The Last Child is a rare accomplishment—a compelling, fast-paced thriller written with a masterful, literary touch. You'll feel this story as much in your heart as in your gut.”  --Jeffery Deaver, author of The Bodies Left Behind

“Hart spins an impressively layered tale of broken families and secrets that can kill.” –Publishers Weekly

“In his third novel, Edgar-winner Hart confronts murder, depravity, betrayal and the like, while still finding room for tenderness.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Hart once again produces a novel that is elegant, haunting, and memorable. His characters are given an emotional depth that genre characters seldom have, and the graceful, evocative prose lifts his stories right out of their genre and into the realm of capital-L literature. A must-read for every variety of fiction reader.” –Booklist (starred review)

The Last Child is a beautifully written, gripping story that will have you staying up late, torn between a desire to know what happens and a reluctance to get to the book's end and break the spell. But don't worry: The characters will stay vividly alive in your imagination long after you've raced through the pages.” --Winston-Salem Journal

""Hart...is brilliant in the art of misdirection...But his attention to language and tempo, his descriptions of settings and people, and his development of characters and their personal relationships all add a wonderful richness to his work. It is a richness that should make The Last Child a pleasure for any reader."" --News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

“Hart artfully employs the pattern of a whodunit to lead the reader down a twisted, thrilling path. What lies at the end, though, is wholly unexpected. There is no easy solution to this story, as we are asked to contemplate the senselessness of fate and the sacrifices some people are willing to make for their families. With the deft characterization of any good work of literary fiction and the subtle, satisfying plotting of a favorite mystery, The Last Child brings readers deep into the pathos of a small North Carolina community. This page turner will stay in your mind long after you’ve read the final page."" --Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“The missing-child story has been done so often that it takes something extraordinary to make it rise above the commonplace. And that is what John Hart has accomplished in his third novel, The Last Child. In the end, this is a novel about blood—the blood of life and death, the blood of kin, the blood of the past. And Hart has again brought forth a mystery/thriller that surpasses the humdrum and rises to serious literature."" --Richmond Times Dispatch

“Hart's third novel, The Last Child, surpasses its superb predecessors. The Last Child's atmospheric, hard-boiled story allows Hart to delve into a town's sinister secrets with a complex tale of broken families, despair and hope.” –Florida Sun-Sentinel

“John Hart is already much praised, but his third and most complex psychological thriller is a risk which has paid off with that same unshakeable sense of discovery. The risk lay in the rarely attempted feat of writing a convincing child hero for adults. His success injects extra poignancy into an already compelling blend of southern gothic mock-epic, outright horror and dues-paying whodunnit. This one stays with you.” –The Daily Telegraph (UK)

“Be warned: the young hero of this compelling read will break your heart. The Last Child is one of those books that stays with readers long after the last page is turned.” –Calgary Herald (Canada)

“A year and a day have passed since the abduction of 12-year-old Alyssa Merrimon, and her twin brother, Johnny, has never felt more alone. His father abandoned the family soon after the disappearance, and his mother has all but vanished into a haze of drinking, drugs and abusive sex. The police detective who investigated the case hovers over the remnants of the family like a watchful angel, but his attentions are unwelcome; he hasn't found the girl. In fact, Johnny's only true friend is his frail young classmate Jack, and even he wavers between supporting Johnny's faith that Alyssa's alive and knowing that she's gone forever.
        But then a clue falls from the sky -- literally: A biker hit by a car and thrown from a bridge lands almost at Johnny's feet. ‘I found her,’ he says in his dying words. ‘The girl that was taken.’
        John Hart's third novel covers only a few days in the life of a North Carolina town, but the minutes all seem breathless. Every few chapters bring new twists and startling revelations: another girl's disappearance, bodies and then more bodies, a surprising series of connections that casts new light on everything that's come before and throws darkening shadows over what's ahead.
        The young boy at the story's center is a magnificent creation, Huck Finn channeled through Lord of the Flies

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