‘Last Seen’ – Lucy Clarke
In a small seaside community, there’s always somebody watching…
Seven years ago, two boys went missing at sea – and only one was brought to shore. The Sandbank, a remote stretch of coast dotted with beach huts, was scarred forever.
Sarah’s son survived, but on the anniversary of the accident, he disappears without trace. As new secrets begin to surface, The Sandbank hums with tension and unanswered questions. Sarah’s search grows more desperate and she starts to mistrust everyone she knows – and she’s right to.
Someone saw everything on that fateful day seven years ago. And they’ll do anything to keep the truth buried.
This was a great summer mystery that I really enjoyed. I thought the book was well-written and I liked the detailed characterisation. However, I could foresee too many of the plot developments, meaning this did lessen the overall suspense of the story.
Clarke’s setting expertly conveys a juxtaposition of summer fun and swamping secrets – stumbling along the beach felt symbolic to the many truths that are hidden by the characters. Despite the idyllic setting of escaping to a beach hut, remote from ‘normal’ life, this row of coastline remains forever tainted by the accident of young Marley, who was never recovered from the sea. Told from the perspectives of Isla and Sarah, past and present, not only do readers follow the investigations into Jacob’s disappearance, but also what happened on the beach seven years previous. It would appear that there are a lot of secrets being withheld and it is like Jacob’s actions are the catalyst for the truth emerging.
Although the friendship between Isla and Sarah seems to be close, I got the distinct impression that this was never genuine. Built over many years, the two women share so much together… including, it would seem, boyfriends and pregnancy. Yet, I never fully believed this connection was honest and I think these feelings were emphasised further with the present-day narrative. In my opinion, there was always a degree of competition between Isla and Sarah, meaning I could never quite like either characters and was distrustful of their behaviours.
I liked how Clarke gradually reveals what happened on the beach when Marley disappeared. It increases the tension, particularly as the true version of events are never revealed until the final chapters. Interrupted with Sarah and Nick’s questions to neighbours about where their son could have gone, the sunny beach felt heavy with despair. Rather than the light-hearted, uplifting feeling you associate with the beach, I felt trapped on this coastline and weighed down by the secrecy. I thought this was a clever technique from the writer, adding to the intensity of the story.
Yet, far too many times I could predict the story’s direction. This was quite disappointing and I was hoping for more surprises than what Clarke could deliver. Sometimes I thought the story was a bit far-fetched, especially considering Jacob’s behaviour later on in the novel, and questioned the validity of how certain secrets could have remained hidden for so long. For me, this made the book less suspenseful but it definitely did not lessen the pace of this captivating story.
Completing this book was like a personal quest for the truth. I liked how Clarke left many ambiguities until the closing chapters, but I wish some elements were not so obvious.
Book Bingo 2022 category completed: Book from your library.