Source: Review copy
Publication: 11 July 2019 from Orenda Books
At the peak of her career as lead singer of a legendary 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now living a quiet existence in a cottage on the grounds of an old stately home, she has put her past behind her and come to terms with her new life.
When a body is found in the manicured gardens of her home, and a series of inexplicable and unsettling events begins to occur, it becomes clear that someone is watching, someone who knows who she is … Someone who wants vengeance.
And this is only the beginning…
A dark, riveting and chilling psychological thriller, The Last Stage is also a study of secrets and obsessions, where innocent acts can have the most terrifying consequences.
With all the confidence of a brash 17 year old who knows nothing about the world, Meredith Vincent left her Wiltshire home and went to Greenham Common because she already had the right costume and thought it would be fun to breach the perimeter fence with the other women heading there to protest. That was a turning point in Meredith’s life because there she met Samantha; older, more worldly and they ended up living together in a London squat with a bunch of other drop outs.
Turning her back on her twin brother Pete, and their mother, Meredith went on to become the lead singer in a post-punk/new wave band that the housemates put together and after a couple of years solid touring they signed a recording contract that made them, if not rich, certainly pretty comfortable.
Then something happened and Meredith dropped out of sight; leaving the band and everyone she knew behind. We are not told what that something was until much later in the book, but whatever it was has left her fragile, untrusting and always vigilant of her surroundings. When we first meet Meredith she is tucked away in an English stately home where she manages the Gift Shop and lives by herself in a cottage in the grounds of the Surrey home’s estate.
Years have passed and Meredith is living a quiet and unremarkable life. She has reconciled with her brother Pete who is now working as a craftsman cabinet maker nearby and living on a houseboat.
Louise Voss’s psychological thriller takes us to the idyllic English countryside, full of green wellingtons, beautifully manicured grounds and houseboats where everyone knows each other but no-one intrudes. In the midst of peace and tranquillity, Voss inserts danger, drama and things that go creak in the night.
Through flashbacks and various other characters’ points of view contrasting with Meredith’s first person narrative, Voss leaves us wondering how reliable our protagonist is when deeply unpleasant and quite mysterious things start to happen around her.
It doesn’t help when she lies to the police and those lies remind us of how callously she left her mother and brother in the breach to satisfy her own needs. The reader is therefore on an uneven keel as we consider Meredith’s justifiable sense of guilt and watch her taking some pretty dodgy decisions.
Voss paces her thriller well. The tension builds slowly, meaning that characterisation comes to the fore. In particular, the police team would make the basis of a great new police procedural series; I really liked DC Gemma McMeekin and the rookie PC Emad Khan, who make for a romantic side story. Voss builds a solid plotline for an authentic and chilling series of events which culminate in a dark and disturbing denouement.
Verdict: A dark and suspense filled story of obsession and revenge wreaked on an unreliable protagonist makes for a creepy and tension-fuelled psychological thriller.
Louise Voss has had eleven novels published – five solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards over an eighteen year career: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and has sold over 350,000 books. Her most recent book, The Old You, was a number one bestseller in eBook. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in South-West London and is a proud member of two female crime-writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.