The Last Time She Saw Him
Jane Haseldine     

Genre: Mystery
Series: Julia Gooden
Book: 1

In Jane Haseldine’s gripping and brilliantly crafted debut, a reporter searching for her kidnapped son must untangle the connection to her brother’s long-ago disappearance.

Julia Gooden remembers nothing about the worst night of her life. Thirty years ago, her nine-year-old brother Ben—the person who promised he would always protect her—was abducted from the room they shared. Try as she might to recall any clue or detail, there is a black hole where Julia’s memories of that terrible event should be.

Now a crime reporter at a Detroit newspaper, Julia tries to give others the closure she’s never found. But guilt and grief over Ben’s disappearance have left her fearful that whoever took her brother is going to come back. Nowhere seems safe—not the city, not the suburbs, not even the secluded lake town where she plans to raise her children. And then, on the anniversary of Ben’s disappearance, Julia’s worst fears are realized when her two-year-old son, Will, is snatched from his bed.

Convinced that the crimes are related, Julia tries to piece together memories from her final day with Ben. Are the sudden reminders of her brother clues that will lead her to her son’s abductor, or merely coincidence? Julia knows she has hours at best to find Will alive, but the deeper she digs, the more personal and terrifying the battle becomes, and an undying promise may be her only hope of saving herself and her son.

Julia Gooden's older brother Ben was abducted from the bedroom the two siblings shared when he was nine years old, and that one event shaped her entire life. Now a crime reporter for a newspaper in Detroit, Julia is still plagued by guilt over being unable to remember any details that could help lead to her brother's kidnapper all those years ago.

Julia is married with two young sons, but she is becoming paralyzed by her fears. Julia has become so overprotective, she often embarrasses her oldest son and her marriage is starting to suffer. In spite of all of Julia's precautions, her two-year-old son Will is abducted. This time, Julia will not rest until she finds her son because she will not allow history repeat itself.

The Last Time She Saw Him is very suspenseful. Although Julia takes things to extremes, readers will relate to Julia's fear for her sons. It is terrifying that with all she does to keep her sons safe, Will is kidnapped. The book starts out wonderfully and held my interest as the story of Julia's childhood with Ben as well as more details about her current life unfold. It's interesting how things start to come together, but events toward the end of the book become too over-the-top to be believable in terms of plot. I didn't care for the violent turn the book takes at the end, either. The abduction of Will hinges on a decision Julia makes that seemed out of character and too convenient to move the plot along. I don’t think someone who has such a hard time trusting wouldn’t take some of the things other characters do and say at face value.

Eventually, Julia comes to terms with Ben's case in a unique, touching way and I liked how things were resolved with Ben's case much more than with Will's. Readers who enjoy books by Debbie Howells will like the suspense and the way Julia and Ben's story is told by author Jane Haseldine in The Last Time She Saw Him.

~ Christine