The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

The Last Place You Look

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton - black and from the wrong side of the tracks - was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister...

Title:The Last Place You Look
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1250120519
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:336 pages

The Last Place You Look Reviews

  • karen
    Nov 08, 2016

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    i will be interviewing mizz lepionka for LARB soon! wheee!

    this is an unexpectedly strong debut.

    debut novels are always a risk: synops

    NOW AVAILABLE!!!

    i will be interviewing mizz lepionka for LARB soon! wheee!

    this is an unexpectedly strong debut.

    debut novels are always a risk: synopses are written with the express purpose of enticing a reader, and blurbs are often the result of author friendships or other writers in the publisher's stable doing a favor for the team, and i usually doubt their sincerity. so, even though the wonderful james renner blurbed this book enthusiastically, i went into this a wary reader.

    part of my apprehension was because i wasn't in love with the cover (i'm totally shallow, i know), but also because of the character. going into it knowing she was a bisexual private investigator with emotional damage and a drinking problem, i worried that it would be:

    A) a clichéd genderswap of the noir archetype - sam spade in a skirt.

    B) romantic suspense heavy on the romance (or at least on the intercoursing), light on the crime aspect.

    C) some sort of lisbeth salander nonsense - a loose cannon of a woman operating outside of the law, defined by casual sex and violence with no emotional depth other than generic damage.

    but it is not even one of those things.

    i've read so many crime fiction/psych suspense novels this year featuring female investigators, whether professional or of the amateur sleuth variety, and nearly every one of them has been flat or stock in nature. which is fine for someone like me who can focus on the story aspect of a book even if it has weak characters, but is still a little disappointing. the only one i've read recently that came across as a real flesh-and-blood woman was conway in tana french's

    . but now i can add roxane weary to that tally. the two definitely wouldn't be friends if they met at some mystery novel character convention, but they would absolutely respect each other. for lepionka to have succeeded in both story and character her first time out is very encouraging for the future of her career.

    sure, roxane has daddy issues, which can be a cliché in the "female in a traditionally male-dominated profession" character type, but her cop father was a complicated, near-legendary man, and his recent death in the line of duty left many people carrying the weight of issues - his wife, his sons, his former partner, and others with whom he'd worked in his 38 years on the force; people who revered him, despite his gruff, unfuzzy nature.

    roxane and her brother andrew, in particular, find themselves in the same emotionally conflicted place:

    roxane became a private investigator despite her father's feelings on the matter, and she's very good at what she does. however, after his death she's been hitting the bottle harder than usual; wallowing in angry grief and not at her professional best when her brother matt sends a client her way; a woman named danielle stockton - the sister of a man who has been on death row for fifteen years after allegedly killing his girlfriend sarah's parents, and presumably sarah as well, who went missing the same night. danielle swears she saw sarah the other day, and needs someone to track her down, and soon, since brad's execution date has just been scheduled and she only has two months to prove his innocence. the police have plenty of evidence incriminating brad, and are unwilling to reopen the investigation, so danielle is desperate for assistance outside the police force.

    desperation gets you roxane weary, struggling to cope even without the stress of investigating a case everyone considers solved, especially when she discovers a connection between sarah's disappearance and one of her father's cold cases.

    already, the book has plenty to keep the reader interested - the ticking clock, the compromised sleuth, the shadow of her father as she follows in his footsteps… there's also excellent dramatic friction between roxane and the local police force, who do

    want her investigating this matter. belmont, ohio is a town 13 sq. miles in size, where the police have little to do apart from responding to smalltown complaints, as roxane discovers when she gets herself a police scanner:

    the cops don't want one of their few "big" cases undermined, and they have a professional disdain for private investigators, who although licensed, are not part of their blue family. roxane is dismissed as a pest; an amateur, despite her impressive track record.

    this is literary crime fiction; it's not the kind of book that ends with a cliffhanger or a huge action sequence at every chapter's end, nor is there any skimping on character development. it's a more mature, steadily-paced novel that borrows elements from the noir sensibility without aping its stiff and stylized tone. this is noir with curves.*

    the investigation process is handled well - the case unfolds unpredictably but not unrealistically. there are plenty of red herrings and misleading clues causing roxane to make some missteps and the reader is locked right in it with her. she does indeed prove to be an excellent investigator without coming across as a contrived mastermind solving the case without breaking a sweat. she's smart, but she's not infallible, and she makes many mistakes and errors in judgment along the way, but she's far from bumbling. even better - she gets hangovers and suffers like a human does, instead of just bouncing back to work the next day like some superhero.

    that's the kind of stuff that excites me as a reader, that she's a believable, human character, and even more refreshing, she reads like a real woman instead of some neutered or hypermasculine figure. she's certainly not girly, but she's a woman, psychologically fleshed-out with a complex personal life full of self-sabotage and discomfort with emotional intimacy.

    i loved the relationship between roxane and her father's former partner tom, and even more so her relationship with her brother andrew, which felt so damn genuine in its mix of respect and familial protectiveness.

    and yes - she has both a male and a female lover, but there's no gratuitous sex slapped in just to keep the reader distracted from a ho-hum crime plot, nor is her life some series of anonymous hookups. both relationships

    to her; they provide something essential to her, flawed as both relationships are.

    and her need is deeper than she allows herself to admit.

    a firecracker of a debut. and not one of those pussy little sparklers you give to kids -it's just an all-around excellent piece of crime fiction, and i'm hoping lepionka returns to this character in future books, because she's a breath of fresh air in a sea of half-assed, forgettable female sleuths.

    also, i simply must applaud her taste in food, because

    sounds like something i need to be eating right now and also every night forever.

    * i wish i could say that it is like megan abbott's excellent girlnoir, because comparisons are good for excitement-generating, but it's not. it's great in its own way, but abbott sticks to the noir tradition more formally, while giving it her own spin.

    ***********************************************

    a high four that might even turn into a five once i give it a second pass for review purposes. which review i've been dillydallying with all week, so it should happen soon. but for now - definitely one for your to-read list. sez this lady.

  • Arah-Lynda
    Apr 08, 2017

    Wow,  I needed that.  This one has me rethinking  ratings I have given to other recent Thriller type reads.  I mean whoa,  it blew them to hell out of the water.

    Meet Roxane Weary, private investigator still struggling with the death of her cop father, struggles that she  drowns in whiskey and then  accepts a case that involves finding evidence of innocence of her client’s brother, Brad Stockton, currently cooling his heels on death row but the date of execution has been set and time is running o

    Wow,  I needed that.  This one has me rethinking  ratings I have given to other recent Thriller type reads.  I mean whoa,  it blew them to hell out of the water.

    Meet Roxane Weary, private investigator still struggling with the death of her cop father, struggles that she  drowns in whiskey and then  accepts a case that involves finding evidence of innocence of her client’s brother, Brad Stockton, currently cooling his heels on death row but the date of execution has been set and time is running out for Brad.

    The evidence comes in the form of Brad’s one time girlfriend Sarah, whose parents murder he has been found guilty of committing.  Danielle, Roxane’s client believes she saw Sarah recently at a gas station.  Sarah has been missing since the night of her parents murder and is for most practical purposes considered deceased.  If Brad knows Sarah’s current whereabouts he is not talking.    

    Roxane is having a hard enough time dealing with her own issues: that include of course her Dad and her Mom and brothers, her Father’s one time partner Tom with whom she is intimate as well as a past girlfriend who seems to enjoy messing with Roxane’s head.  Add in a missing girl who has been just that, missing,  lo these many years and a local small town police force who see no point in Roxane’s investigation into an old murder that has already been solved.  They are much  less than helpful.  

    Roxane is the star of this show.  You cannot help but love her and root for her, perhaps because she reads as so perfectly flawed,  so wonderfully fallible and damn human.  Her personal life is in chaos and Roxane does not appear to be in control.  She drinks, blacks out  and puts herself in one compromising position after another as she trips around attempting to validate her client’s claim,  but now another young woman that Roxane has met recently through her search, suddenly goes missing.  The stakes could not be higher and Roxane is stumbling big time.    And Brad’s clock?  Still ticking.

    I did it, I stumbled right along with Roxane and despite her alcoholic daze, foolish blunders, wrong assumptions and poor choices I was rooting for her to hold her personal demons at bay long enough to get a grip.

    I'm just going to say it. I loved the way this ended, an all round success.

     And yes, I would do it again in a heartbeat. A Full Woot!

    I owe a huge word of thanks to karen brissette for first putting this on my radar and then facilitating an electronic arc of this novel.  I would also like to thank Shailyn Tavella of  Minotaur books and NetGalley.

     releases June 13, 2017.  You do not want to miss this one.

    Read karen's review here:

  • Emily May
    May 17, 2017

    . It's a shame mediocre books like

    will soar the charts this year, when books like this probably won't get the attention they deserve.

    follows private investigator - Roxane Weary - as she attempts to solve a fifteen-year-old case and, possibly, save an innocent man from death row. It doesn't look good; in fact, the guy looks guilty as sin, but Roxane needs the PI money. However, her digging into small town secrets and a

    . It's a shame mediocre books like

    will soar the charts this year, when books like this probably won't get the attention they deserve.

    follows private investigator - Roxane Weary - as she attempts to solve a fifteen-year-old case and, possibly, save an innocent man from death row. It doesn't look good; in fact, the guy looks guilty as sin, but Roxane needs the PI money. However, her digging into small town secrets and a buried past unearth something bigger than she'd ever imagined.

    .

    The real strength of this book is Roxane herself. I adore mystery/thrillers that make you care about the investigator and their private life just as much as you care about the whodunnit. Roxane is bisexual and juggling two unhealthy relationships, one with a man and the other with a woman. She also has a drinking problem that is starting to affect her work.

    . She's set up as someone I would like to read more about - not just to see her solve crimes and get her hands dirty, but because I care about her. I'm really glad to hear there are more books planned for this series.

    Some of the reveals are not difficult to guess, but I've said this maybe a hundred times: the best mysteries are those where it doesn't matter if you work out who did it. And here, it doesn't matter. The story stands strong without leaning heavily on its reveals; it is so much more than its outcome.

    So if you like

    , charmingly screwed-up private investigators, cases that expand and get bigger and bigger, and a touch of

    and

    , I would highly recommend this book.

    aside, it's easily the best mystery/thriller I've read in a while.

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  • Deanna
    May 26, 2017

    My reviews can also be seen at:

    Private investigator Roxane (one N) Weary finds things for a living.

    "Objects. People. Answers. Whatever needs to be found."

    And she's VERY good at it

    She gets a call from a woman, Danielle Stockton who tells Roxane that she needs her help. Roxane asks her what she needs to find.

    "The girl who can get my brother off death row."

    Danielle's brother, Brad Stockton was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's mother and father 15 year

    My reviews can also be seen at:

    Private investigator Roxane (one N) Weary finds things for a living.

    "Objects. People. Answers. Whatever needs to be found."

    And she's VERY good at it

    She gets a call from a woman, Danielle Stockton who tells Roxane that she needs her help. Roxane asks her what she needs to find.

    "The girl who can get my brother off death row."

    Danielle's brother, Brad Stockton was convicted of murdering his girlfriend's mother and father 15 years ago. That same night his girlfriend 17-year-old Sarah Cook disappeared. Most people believe that he also killed Sarah and that her body just hasn't been found.

    Apparently this was an open and shut case with evidence pointing directly to Brad Stockton. At the time Brad was no real help to himself. When others asked him if he thought Sarah could have done it, he refused to consider the idea even though it may have helped him with his own case.

    So why is his sister looking for Roxane's help now?

    Her brother is due to be executed in just a few weeks and she will do anything she can help him. This includes spending money she doesn't really have hiring Roxane. What's more, Danielle believes she saw Sarah Cook recently. The sighting seems unbelievable considering there has been no other sightings in the last 15 years.

    Is Danielle imagining things or is it actually possible that she saw Sarah?

    Is it possible that Brad Stockton is innocent? And if he is who is the real killer?

    Even Roxane thinks he's probably guilty. But she takes the case as she needs the money. It's been nine months since her father passed away. Frank Weary was a cop for 38 years and was killed in the line of duty. We learn more about her relationship with her father, brothers and mother. She knew her father didn't really approve of her line of work and she often felt off-kilter in her relationship with him.

    Roxane's also having a tough time in the relationship department.

    With everything going on the bottle is beginning to become too good of a friend...

    Roxane has her issues but she also has determination, a big heart, and she really is damn good at what she does.

    Then she starts to see some connections between Sarah Cook and a couple of other cases, one of which her father had worked on. When another local girl goes missing, Roxane becomes even more determined to figure out what is going on, even if it means putting herself in danger.

    But is it too late for Brad and Danielle Stockton? And why are some people so insistent that Roxane stop hanging around and asking questions?

    It took me a little while to get into the story and I had some confusion when the other cases were introduced. I found it hard keeping everyone straight. But after a while it all started to flow pretty well. The last few chapters of the book were especially intense and exciting. I felt like I was holding my breath at times.

    Overall, this was a solid, entertaining, and exciting read that I was quick to devour. And if the #1 after the title is anything to go on, it looks like we may be hearing more from PI Roxane Weary. I am looking forward to it.

    Thank you Minotaur Books and Kristen Lepionka for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.

  • Chelsea Humphrey
    May 26, 2017

    Isn’t it peculiar how the first line of a book can make or break it for you? As soon as I read those words I knew this novel and I would get along just fine. While I had every intention of just dipping my toes in and slowly making my way through the story, that isn’t exactly what happened. I was immediately gripped by Roxane and her unconventional methods, and when I found out fellow blogger Annie @ The Misstery was also reading this, we decided to hu

    Isn’t it peculiar how the first line of a book can make or break it for you? As soon as I read those words I knew this novel and I would get along just fine. While I had every intention of just dipping my toes in and slowly making my way through the story, that isn’t exactly what happened. I was immediately gripped by Roxane and her unconventional methods, and when I found out fellow blogger Annie @ The Misstery was also reading this, we decided to hunker down together and binge the entire book in less than 12 hours. Needless to say, this was an arresting debut that managed to be equal parts plot and character driven.

    I can see why readers are hesitant to jump in at the beginning of yet another new series. It may be just a Chelsea thing, but I’ve noticed that out of the copious amount of detective crime series I’ve begun, I only continue past the first book with about 30%, and further more I only continue past book three about 10% of the time. All that to say, Roxane Weary has the great potential to be a part of that glorious 10%. How often does such a diverse novel of the mystery/suspense/thriller genre come about? Our leading lady is a bisexual private investigator who is looking for the only possible witness to free a black man who has been wrongly placed on death row for the murder of his girlfriend’s parents. We get an insight not only to the case at hand, but into Roxane’s private life and the events that have shaped her into the person she is in the present.

    I’m assuming this series will run similar to other crime fiction where we focus on a single case per installment, and I felt this first one was handled really well. I truly didn’t have the ending figured out until the big reveal, and while that was a huge bonus, it wasn’t even my favorite part of the book. The reason I’ll be coming back to read more from Lepionka is for her ability to craft characters that come alive off the page; I was fully invested in Roxane’s personal life, whether that be with her family or either of her two love interests. My only minor issue was that I found it a little distracting to have to follow both potential relationships right off the bat. If I’m being honest though, I can’t figure out a better way to have written them in than the way the author chose to, so I’m not entirely sure my concerns are valid. Otherwise, I literally couldn’t get enough of this book. I was completely consumed by the story and found myself stuttering and whining at the close of the story that I didn’t immediately have a following book to continue on with.

    Chances are you’re reading this because you too are a fan of crime fiction of the procedural type. I can also bet that you are growing weary of the stale, ritualistic series that lull you to sleep and make you rethink why you keep picking these books up. My answer: you pick them up so that you can find gems like this among the muck and mess. If you are looking for a fresh breath of unique writing in a genre that can lose your loyalty quickly, look no further. This book has just about everything you could want and can satisfy even the pickiest of mystery readers, while also establishing a foundation of being so much more than simply a decent twist. With deeply relatable characters and a speedy plot, I’d highly recommend

    to all readers of the genre, whether you are a seasoned vet or a newbie dipping your toes for the first time. Please get to writing Kristen; we need more!

  • Paromjit
    May 30, 2017

    This is an atmospheric and stunning crime fiction debut set in Columbus, Ohio. PI Roxane Weary has a gift for finding things, but hasn't had a job for a while. Her brother, Matt, sends Danielle Stockton to Roxane. Danielle is the sister of Brad, who is on death row for the murder of Garrett and Elaine Cook, and is suspected of the murder of Sarah Cook, his girlfriend. However, Brad will not have a bad word said about Sarah, even if it could save his life. Danielle is convinced she has seen Sarah

    This is an atmospheric and stunning crime fiction debut set in Columbus, Ohio. PI Roxane Weary has a gift for finding things, but hasn't had a job for a while. Her brother, Matt, sends Danielle Stockton to Roxane. Danielle is the sister of Brad, who is on death row for the murder of Garrett and Elaine Cook, and is suspected of the murder of Sarah Cook, his girlfriend. However, Brad will not have a bad word said about Sarah, even if it could save his life. Danielle is convinced she has seen Sarah at a gas station recently and she wants Roxane to find evidence that will clear Brad, but time is running out.

    Roxane's father, Frank, a cop, has recently died, she is griefstricken but full of conflicting emotions and it is beyond her capabilities to talk about her relationship with her father and what he meant to her. Her unresolved feelings bring forth anger and hostility to those around her, including her family. She is hitting the bottle too frequently in her attempts to cope and her personal life is a car crash revolving around a woman who is no good for her and having sex with Tom, Frank's partner, which ends. Tom, though is always there for Roxane, despite having a new partner, Pam. Roxane struggles to find any evidence of Sarah being at the gas station and instead looks at the case from a different angle, and finds stab victim Mallory Evans with a similar MO. She discovers that this was an unsolved case for her father. The Belmont police are unhappy that she is looking into Brad and Mallory's case, and go to inordinate lengths to run her out of the area. Another body is discovered and another young local girl goes missing. Roxane is tenacious and determined, but can she find the missing young woman, solve her father's old case and save Brad?

    This is a top notch crime thriller, with a compelling central character in Roxane. Roxane is a deeply flawed character, having to pick herself up from drunken blackouts, but I rooted for her and wanted her to deal with her demons. She eventually comes closer to achieving this by working the Brad investigation and by her close, if fractious, relationships with Tom and her family. I also loved Roxane's positive relationship with the young Shelby. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series. A brilliant read that I highly recommend. Thanks to Faber and Faber for an ARC.

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