Reviewer Penny Watkins: Penny is a Registered Nurse and specializes in Clinical Informatics. She is also a wife, mom, grandma, activist, coffee lover, cat owner and book addict. Faith and family are her priorities and reading is her second favorite activity. (Sleeping is #1--in my spare time.) She agrees with Margaret Mead: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Author: Kathy Herman
Author: Kathy Herman
The Last Word is the second book in Kathy Herman’s Sophie Trace trilogy. The main character is Brill Jessup, Chief of Police for the small town of Sophie Trace. In her job, Brill faces danger every day of her life. That danger has touched her family before, leaving a trace of anxiety about her safety and theirs. The anxiety escalates when one of Brill’s detectives, Sean O’Toole, is attached and nearly killed right in the Police Station. The attacker says he is coming for Brill next.
Later that same day, Brill gets a phone call from the Memphis PD, where she worked before coming to Sophie Trace. Someone stabbed her old partner, Zach. The assailant said DA Jason Cromwell would be his next victim. As the attacks continue in both communities, it becomes clear that someone is out for revenge. Someone Brill and Zach and Cromwell put behind bars. He wants to make them all suffer and then to kill them. O’Toole and Zach both die, and Cromwell is attacked and nearly dies. Brill knows she is the killer’s next victim and fears he will target her family just to make her hurt.
Brill has her hands full at home, too. Because she is afraid the killer will target her family, she draws protection so close around them that they feel suffocated. Her marriage is just getting back on stable ground after her husband, Kurt, had an affair. Not wanting to upset her family, Brill suppresses her own fear and anxiety, which begins to distance her from Kurt. Youngest daughter, Ellen, has residual PTSD from being kidnapped. She becomes anxious and clingy and begins to have nightmares again because of the danger Brill is in.
Brill and Kurt’s oldest daughter, Vanessa, comes home from college obviously pregnant. Brill and Kurt are shocked, hurt and surprised because Vanessa has always been a strong Christian, and because she kept the pregnancy a secret from them. The father of the child is Vanessa’s psychology professor and he has mysteriously disappeared from the face of the earth.
The Last Word is contemporary Christian fiction, a genre that general readers often reject out of hand. There are honestly few books in that genre that anyone but a Christian would consider. Most are preachy, contemptuous of non-Christians or unctuously self-righteous. Very few are well-written, engaging and realistic.
That is why The Last Word is exceptional. The characters come off as real people living in the real world, trying to figure how to live life as a Christian. They don’t always get it “right.” They make mistakes, deceive themselves and others, make harsh judgments, live in denial, think ugly thoughts and do sinful things.
Brill has a tough job. She deals with really nasty people on a daily basis. The local sheriff doesn’t think Chief of Police is a woman’s job and takes every opportunity to make sexist digs at her. The mayor and city council are threatening to fire her if she can’t close this case. She’s a working mom, trying to juggle all her hats. Her job puts her family in jeopardy. She and Kurt have their struggles. She loves her kids but doesn’t always understand them—especially when it appears that Vanessa not only rejected their family’s values but also kept her pregnancy from them. Through all the curves that life throws at her and her family, thought, she tries to live by faith.
At the end of the day, when the chips are down and Brill is face-to-face with the killer, Merrick Fountain—the man who has threatened and terrorized and murdered to get revenge, the man who breached the security around Brill’s family and kidnapped Vanessa—Brill is still trying her best to live by faith. When life and death are on the line…Brill chooses faith and belief in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
When Brill finds herself at Fountain’s mercy and knows that she will die, the bedrock belief of Christianity moves from intellectual belief to absolute certainty for her. Fountain can kill her body, but he cannot kill Brill. The moment her body dies, she will be alive with Christ. Brill has nothing to lose. That is why she has The Last Word: the message that Christ saves everybody who cries out to him—even Merrick Fountain.