The Last Act Of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia

The Blurb On The Back:

The first and most important lesson in acting is to read your audience.  Know what they want you to be and give it to them.

Hattie Hoffman knows the power of acting.  Become whatever people want you to be and they will love you; and when they love you, the power is in your hands.

When Hattie is stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the only suspect is a Shakespearean curse.  Sheriff Del Goodman looked on Hattie as a daughter.  He vows to hunt down her killer, but discovers instead the full extent of Hattie’s acting talents.  She held their small town in her thrall, but as more of her secrets are revealed, and mask after mask is discarded, he realises the girl he knew was far from the true Hattie Hoffman.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

It’s 12th April 2008.  Del Goodman (the sheriff of Pine Valley, a small town in Minnesota) is called out when a body is discovered in the abandoned Erickson barn.  The body is 18-year-old Hattie Hoffman, the daughter of Del’s best friends Bud and Mona, who had starred as Lady Macbeth in the opening night of the school play the night before but then never came home.  Someone stabbed Hattie to death but there are no obvious suspects.  She was pretty, popular, dating Tommy Kinakis who played on the High School football team and everyone knew she was a great actress who wanted to go to New York and seek her fortune.  But as he investigates her murder, Del discovers that Hattie used her acting talent to keep secrets, wearing different masks for different people.  To find the murderer he must find the real Hattie but that could be the hardest task of all …

Mindy Mejia’s standalone crime novel is a solid read that well portrays the intrigues and interplay of small rural town life while the manipulative but dynamic bright star Hattie and the world-weary Vietnam veteran, Del are both compelling but the book is hampered by a small pool of suspects which means the identity of the killer is easy to guess.  The split narration between Hattie, Del and Peter (a city boy who’s moved Pine valley to live with his wife who wants to look after her widowed mother on her family farm and who works as a teacher at the local high school) works well with Mejia giving each of them a distinctive voice and using them to uncover Hattie’s personality.  Pete is especially interesting given he’s such a self-pitying idiot whose actions really drive the narrative – Mejia makes him both contemptible and sympathetic.  Hattie is also an interesting victim – a girl who’s mature in some ways and a child in others, manipulative and ambitious but strangely naïve – her fate is a genuine tragedy.  The two main problems though are that the narrative is skewered so obviously in one direction that I guessed the killer early on and I felt that the Macbeth curse subplot (that supposedly attracts the state media) didn’t ring true or fit into the narrative themes.  Although the story didn’t quite do it for me there’s a lot here to like and I will definitely check out Mejia’s next book.

THE LAST ACT OF HATTIE HOFFMAN was released in the United Kingdom on 9th March 2017.  Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.

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