The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman

Mindy Mejia

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman
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The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman

Mindy Mejia

No one keeps more secrets. No one is better at hiding them. With an ending you will never see coming and characters that will stay with you forever, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is a gripping psychological mystery perfect for fans of The Roanoke Girls.

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life.

Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity; about the line between innocence and culpability; about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control.

Review

I’ve long been a sucker for American stories set away from the intensity of their cities and in the country’s open heart: those wide endless prairies; the sheriffs who know everyone and ride the thin line between being adored and feared; that down-home American cheesiness that hides an undercurrent of blood as much as the seeds of their farmland. Everyone is suspicious, and a suspect; everyone speaks their minds, except when they are hiding something. And teenage girls go out of their minds in desperation to leave for bigger and better places. Sometimes they don’t make it further than an early marriage and another farm down the road; sometimes, like Hattie Hoffman, they don’t even make it that far before being discovered in an abandoned barn, stabbed to death – her acting career, her life, cut short.

Mejia’s novel follows multiple points of view, all genuine, all heartbreaking in their own ways, all unhappy with something, someone, or somewhere. Hattie herself, in the lead-up to her death, is consumed by the idea of escape and an unknown love. Del, the worn-out sheriff, is trying to find out who killed his best friend’s daughter. And then there’s Peter, a teacher forced by circumstance into a life he is desperate to be out of. Who in this town is unhappy enough to kill a teenage girl? To slash her face into an unrecognisable version of herself?

This book is full of tiny, genuine moments – in a family, between friends, describing the landscape – that elevate this tale, and make Pine Valley a place worth visiting, even when you don’t know who might be living there.


Fiona Hardy blogs about Crime Fiction at readingkills.com and puts together the Dead Write column for the Readings Monthly newsletter.

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