Monday, September 5, 2016

Review: The Last Good Girl

Summary: From Allison Leotta, the “highly entertaining storyteller” (George Pelecanos) who writes “in a style that’s as real as it gets” (USA TODAY), a ripped-from-the-headlines novel featuring prosecutor Anna Curtis at the center of a national story involving campus rape and the disappearance of a young woman.

It was her word against his...until she disappeared.

Emily Shapiro has gone missing. A freshman at a Michigan university, Emily was last seen leaving a bar near Beta Psi, a prestigious and secretive fraternity. The main suspect is Dylan Highsmith, the son of one of the most powerful politicians in the state. At first, the only clue is pieced-together surveil­lance footage of Emily leaving the bar that night...and Dylan running down the street after her.

When prosecutor Anna Curtis discovers a video diary Emily kept during her first few months at college, it exposes the history Emily had with Dylan: she accused him of rape before disappearing. Anna is horrified to discover that Dylan’s frat is known on campus as the “rape factory.”

The case soon gets media attention and support from Title IX activists across the country, but Anna’s investigation hits a wall. Anna has to find something, anything she can use to discover Emily alive. But without a body or any physical evidence, she’s under threat from people who tell her to stop before she ruins the name of an innocent young man.

Inspired by real-life stories, The Last Good Girl shines a light on campus rape and the powerful emotional dynamics that affect the families of the men and women on both sides. -- Touchstone

I have listened to a novel by Allison Leotta a few years ago, but her latest book THE LAST GOOD GIRL I actually read in print. Both books were part of the Anna Curtis series (#3 and #5), and I have to wonder why I haven't read the rest. I really like the character of Anna (along with the secondary characters, and I think Ms. Leotta is a pretty darn good storyteller.

In THE LAST GOOD GIRL, a college woman named Emily Shapiro mysteriously disappears from a Michigan university. She was last seen leaving a bar and running away from Dylan Highsmith, a member of Beta Psi (a secretive fraternity) and son of a wealthy Michigan politician. There is some surveillance footage but it doesn't give many clues as to her whereabouts.

Emily was already having a difficult freshman year. As the daughter of the university president, she had dreamed about attending college. Unfortunately, shortly after she moved on campus, she went to a frat party at Beta Psi. She claims that she was raped there by Dylan, and she threatens to go public with the information. Soon thereafter, she goes missing. Naturally, Dylan becomes a person of interest.

And this is where Anna Curtis enters the picture. Anna is a federal prosecutor for sex crimes and has moved to Michigan to help her sister with her new baby. She has also moved on from her relationship with Jack and started a new one with Cooper. When Jack asks her to begin an investigation into Emily's disappearance, Anna jumps right in. She is determined to not only find Emily but also to make sure that justice is served.

As Anna begins working on the task force, she receives a little help from her sister as well as her old partner from the FBI, Samantha Randazzo. Together, they discover that there are a lot of secrets associated with Beta Psi including that it's known as a "rape factory." Anna is having a hard time finding real evidence to link Dylan with the crime, and she feels the pressure to find Emily before it's too late.

I really, really enjoyed THE LAST GOOD GIRL. I have to give Kathy (aka Bermudaonion) credit for recommending this novel to me. It is extremely fast-paced and the storyline unfortunately is relevant in today's society. I found that I liked Anna's character even more than in the first book, and I definitely had a hard time putting down this novel. Truth be told, I read it in less than 24 hours.

One thing that I mentioned briefly in my summary is that Anna is no longer living in Washington, DC with Jack. She's now living in Detroit with her sister and her new love interest Cooper. I have a feeling that some of this unfolded in Book #4, but I didn't have any problems catching up with her love life.

I found that I not only liked the I story of Emily's disappearance, but I also really liked the parts about Anna's personal life. Anna was forced to see Jack again and work through her unresolved feelings towards him and her daughter. I felt as if the author did a good job of handling both Anna's professional and personal lives as well as the few scenes where they blurred.

I don't want to pat myself on the back, but I did figure out the mystery about half-way through the novel. I don't know if I got lucky or it was predictable, but either way, I do think the novel is worth reading. That doesn't mean that I knew everything that was going to happen, so there was still a twist or two that caught me by surprise.

I was thrilled to see that there is a reading guide available for THE LAST GOOD GIRL. I would love it if someone in my book club selected this novel in the future. We all have daughter (except one woman), and they are all going to be heading to college in the next year or so. I found many parts of this story to be extremely relevant in our daughters' lives from the frat parties, to the date rape drugs, to the adjustment to college. In addition, there are some other themes including sexism, the culture on college campuses, rape victims, the legal system, and more that would be interesting to discuss.

I thought THE LAST GOOD GIRL was a terrific read. Highly recommended to fans of mysteries and books whose stories are ripped from the headlines.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Mystery Mondays is a regular feature where I review all types of mystery books -- traditional mysteries, suspense/thrillers, and even cozies! Please feel free to share your thoughts on any recent mystery books that you've read.


bermudaonion said...

You're smarter than I am - I didn't figure out the ending early. It surprised me and I loved the book. I didn't realize it's part of a series - I need to check out the other books.

Beth F said...

This was the first I read (well, listened) in the series, but I enjoyed it enough to want to go back to read the others. The topic was timely and scary.

Kelly-Belly said...

I'm going to see if my library has this one. Thanks! :)