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The Last Day of Emily Lindsey


The Last Day of Emily Lindsey

Author Nic Joseph made a very auspicious debut in 2016 with the release of the much-acclaimed BOY, 9, MISSING. Joseph is not content to rest on her laurels, as demonstrated by THE LAST DAY OF EMILY LINDSEY. Her sophomore effort explores different themes from those of her first novel, but is built upon the same elements that almost instantly put her on a number of must-read lists.

The narrative ping-pongs between the past and present. In the past, a group of children in a mysterious dormitory attempt to unravel a riddle that has become central to their existence. During the day, they are more or less permitted the run of several floors of the building where they are housed and schooled by a group of women --- the mothers --- who treat them with a genuine, though detached, kindness. The ladies, in turn, are supervised by a somewhat enigmatic figure named Frank.

"You may see a number of the surprises in THE LAST DAY OF EMILY LINDSEY coming, but there are many twists and turns that will shock you."

However, each year on the night of June 2nd, the kids are subject to a strict lockdown in their rooms, with the additional admonition that they are forbidden to access the eighth floor of their building. This restriction is a waving red flag for Jack, a 12-year-old resident with an insatiable curiosity and a precocious bent for planning. Over the course of the book, we learn in dribs and drabs how Jack enlists a handful of other students into breaking the quarantine and discovering what is occurring on the eighth floor that requires such dramatic and drastic measures to keep the children away. Please note that this is not a Helen Fuller Orton mystery. You, like the youngsters in this tale, may regret the discovery.

In the present, a detective named Steven Paul is dealing with demons of his own, haunted by both nightmares and a police review. The latter is due to his involvement in a shooting during a hostage situation that left a bank robber dead and an innocent customer paralyzed. Things become worse when he and his partner on the force are called to a startling tableau at a local residence where they make the grim acquaintance of Emily Lindsey. She is covered in blood, though it is obviously not her own, considering she has no scratches on her body. Though in a near catatonic state, the woman draws a weird spiral and cross symbol, a mark with which Paul is intimately familiar. He has been seeing it in his nightmares for years. Even more odd is that she has on her person a slip of paper with Paul’s name on it, even though he has never met her.

While trying to keep his own demons at bay, Paul attempts to unravel the current mystery that may also reveal secrets of his own past that have been kept from him. Like the children in the other storyline, he may be better off not knowing the answers to his questions.

You may see a number of the surprises in THE LAST DAY OF EMILY LINDSEY coming, but there are many twists and turns that will shock you. The relationship between the book’s past and present are fairly obvious, but the mysteries presented in both plotlines are resolved only with a series of clues that are well-paced and well-placed by Joseph. Fans of BOY, 9, MISSING will not be disappointed.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on October 6, 2017

The Last Day of Emily Lindsey
by Nic Joseph