The Last Word
Ellery Adams

ISBN-13: 978-0425245002
Publisher: Penguin Group
Line: Berkley
Release Date: Dec 6, 2011
Pages: 320
Retail Price: 7.99

Genre: Mystery

Olivia Limoges and the Bayside Book Writers are excited about Oyster Bay's newest resident: bestselling novelist Nick Plumley, who's come to work on his next book. But when Olivia stops by Plumley's rental she finds that he's been strangled to death. Her instincts tell her that something from the past came back to haunt him, but she never expects that the investigation could spell doom for one of her dearest friends...

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For fans of:  Rosemary Harris

Writer, landlady, and restaurateur Olivia Limoges has a busy couple of weeks ahead of her.  Not only is she helping her dear friend and fellow writer Harris Williams through the process of buying his first house, but her half-brother and his wife are about to give birth to their second child, and the grand-opening of her new restaurant, The Bayside Crab House, is just around the corner.  And then there’s the matter of the new chapter she’s supposed to be penning for critique by the Bayside Book Writers – a group whose next meeting which will be attended by the town’s newest resident, bestselling author Nick Plumley.

It’s nothing Olivia can’t handle, though – that is, at least, until things start going off the rails.  Her sister-in-law goes into labor, only to discover there’s something seriously wrong with the baby’s heart.  Plumley starts acting strangely and showing an inordinate amount of interest in Harris’ new house.  And when Olivia shows up at Plumley’s rental cottage to confront him about his behavior, she finds the man dead on the floor, wadded-up pages of his latest novel crammed in his mouth.

Who killed Plumley, and does his murder have anything to do with his obsession regarding Harris’ new abode?  Busy as she is, Olivia must find the time to solve the mystery surrounding the author's death or the next item she'll have to work into her jam-packed schedule may be her friend's funeral.

The Last Word is the third in Ellery Adams' Books By the Bay Mystery series, and overall, it’s a pretty good read.  The plot is complex, the narrative drive is strong, and the book is populated with interesting and intelligent people.  The mystery is engrossing (though ultimately a bit convoluted for my taste), and while Adams' final wrap-up is overwrought and melodramatic, the book’s big showdown is thrilling and action-packed.

Olivia makes for an interesting and unique main character.  Icy yet vulnerable, generous yet chronically mistrustful, driven, bossy, and judgmental, I don’t quite like her, but I certainly respect her, and she’s more than capable of carrying a series.

Adams’ supporting cast is compelling, as well.  Olivia’s half-brother, Hudson, and his wife Kim and daughter Caitlyn are nuanced and intriguing characters in their own rights, and their relationships with Olivia serve to humanize her.  Bartender and fellow writer Millay adds some much-needed youth and spunk to the tale.  And while town police chief Sawyer Rawlings is a tad ridiculous on the surface with his Hawaiian shirts and his chocolate-milk addiction, his budding romance with Olivia is tender, complicated, and realistic, and helps add some nice depth to the book's B-story.  Adams’ only real misstep character-wise is Dixie, the middle-aged, pigtail-sporting, roller-skate-clad dwarf who runs an Andrew Lloyd Webber-themed diner called Grumpy’s, but Dixie pops up infrequently enough that her appearances are more annoyances than sour notes.

I do wish the book had a stronger sense of atmosphere – from the brief description Adams’ provides at the beginning of the book, I get the sense that Oyster Bay is the kind of place I’d love to get lost for an afternoon or two – but it's possible she didn't find the town had much of a role to play in this particular story.  Hopefully, we'll get a better taste of Oyster Bay's flavor in books to come.

Reviewed by Kat