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Friday, April 17, 2020

The Last Crossing by Brian McGilloway (reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Author Website
Order The Last Crossing over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Brian McGilloway is a crime fiction author from Derry, Northern Ireland. Born in 1974, he studied English at Queens University Belfast, where he was very active in student theatre, winning a national Irish Student Drama Association award for theatrical lighting design in 1996. He is a former Head of English at St. Columb's College in Derry, but now teaches in Holy Cross College in Strabane. McGilloway's debut novel was a crime thriller called Borderlands. McGilloway lives near the Irish borderlands with his family.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Tony, Hugh and Karen thought they’d seen the last of each other thirty years ago. Half a lifetime has passed and memories have been buried. But when they are asked to reunite - to lay ghosts to rest for the good of the future - they all have their own reasons to agree. As they take the ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland the past is brought in to terrible focus - some things are impossible to leave behind.

In The Last Crossing memory is unreliable, truth shifts and slips and the lingering legacy of the Troubles threatens the present once again.

FORMAT/INFO: The Last Crossing was released in hardcover and e-book editions by Dome Press on April 2, 2020. The book is 323 pages spread over fifty-nine chapters and three titled chapters.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: The Last Crossing is my first exposure to Brian McGillloway’s work and even though Brian McGilloway is a named man in the world of crime fiction. I wasn’t aware of him and it seems that it is my loss at that. This standalone story begins with a crackerjack sentence:

Martin Kelly cried for his mother before he died.”

For a reader like me this is one of the best hooks to get me interested about the story. The story begins with Hugh, Karen and Tony joining forces for the murder of Martin Kelly. We as the readers don’t know why such a horrible event is occurring, except for the fact that the three of them believe it absolutely necessary. After disposing of the body and linking evidence. The three then part ways and never seen again. However thirty years later, events take a wild turn as the three of them are forced to return. It’s from here that things take a stranger turn as we the readers are given dual timelines. The one in the present and the one in the past (thirty years).

The author really gives us a layered storyline as this isn’t just a crime story. It’s more about the tumultuous events that shape us and how our actions often cause echoes that affect people and their lives not just in the present but the future as well. Here’s where the author’s characterization is really brought to the fore. In both timelines, we meet the same characters however they might just be different people. Such is depth of characterization that those three characters (Hugh, Karen & Tony) are completely different people in both timelines. However the death of Martin Kelly is what binds both timelines and all the characters. We learn why and how the opening scene came to be and there’s some effective manipulation involved. The trick for the readers is to recognize who is manipulating and who are being manipulated.

For the settings, as one can guess with any story set on the Irish shores, it’s sure to involve the Troubles. Such is the sheer calamitous nature of the Troubles which affected both the major British Isles that any person who was remotely involved cannot say their lives remain unscathed. We find that our main characters are deeply involved with these Troubles however not in the way that one might think. This is where the readers will have to read the story to see how deeply the author has enmeshed the storylines and character lives.

The author’s prose is also quite admirable and the sentence and chapter structure is on the shorter side but it is done so with intent. The pace of the story is also quite quick as we are never left with a staid storyline. Broken down into four sections, the story moves quite quickly and before we know it, a dark climax approaches. The ending is quite unexpected and I enjoyed how it all played out. The story is definitely a dark one and the author makes no qualms about it.

For those readers who don’t want to read about a gloomy storyline and characters who perhaps aren’t the most moral. They definitely won’t enjoy this story. This storyline while a dark one does have it humorous moments and for one, is definitely a solid story about human nature and redemption.

CONCLUSION: The Last Crossing is definitely a story that will resonate with a lot of folks. It’s nuanced and written in such a way that lends to rereads. I don’t know if the author intentionally wrote it that way but I do know he’s written to cause a reaction. The Last Crossing is a book that dwells a lot of human behavior and the way we think and react. It’s no surprise that this book similar to humans is a mystery that awaits your attention.

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