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the last dance by mark billingham – meet detective declan miller

Sorry readers, while this book is excellently written and the detail terrific, and some of it is quite sad (and other bits frightening) I do not like the main character, maverick Detective Declan Miller.

Whilst yes, Detective Miller is excellent at his job, his sense of humour isn’t. He is disturbed, reserved, annoying and drives me and other characters to distraction.

His hobbies are ballroom dancing, looking after his pet rats Fred and Ginger and mentally reviewing his new case with his late wife, Alex, who was also a detective, recently murdered in the line of duty;

Miller misses her terribly and returns to work early after a six week break . He is assigned a new partner, thrash metal fan and Yamaha-riding DS Sara Xiu. They unexpectedly eventually become a great team

Mark Billingham’s THE LAST DANCE is set in Blackpool, and divided into sixty four short gulps of chapters and parts named after ballroom dancing steps. Generally the narrative moves forward at a steady pace but at one point it hurtles suspensefully towards a dramatic confrontation and a totally unexpected twist. There are multiple threads to the narrative and the other various characters are also vividly written (eg Miller’s boss, his colleagues and so on).

The first case Miller and Xiu are assigned is a double murder at the rather squalid Sands Motel. Are the two cases linked? At first it seems that the two victims –IT consultant Barry Shepherd and organised crime heir Adrian Cutler – are in no way connected, but Miller uses his network of various sources, including his and Alex’s ballroom dancing friends, an informant he has known for years, and Alex’s ghost.  He starts  to wonder if a hidden labyrinthine network is involved. Alex was investigating the Cutlers when she was murdered. Or did the killer shoot Barry , realise they’d made a mistake and also kill Adrian Cutler?

Miller has to find out and calls on not only the Cutlers but another sleazy ‘gangster’ Ralph Massey at the Majestic Ballroom and sex worker ‘Scarlett Ribbons’. The young homeless girl Finn has an important place in the narrative as does Miller’s contact and friend prison snitch Gary ‘Chesshead’ Cole, who attempts to help but with calamitous consequences .

Xiu has hidden secrets yet to be revealed , there is a very spooky twist right at the end, and Alex’s death creates a possible link for future adventures….

An interesting read.









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