BookBrowse Reviews The Last Flight by Julie Clark

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The Last Flight

by Julie Clark

The Last Flight by Julie Clark X
The Last Flight by Julie Clark
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2020, 320 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2021, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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A fast-paced psychological thriller for the #MeToo era.

Julie Clark's second novel, The Last Flight, is the tale of two women, each desperate to escape an untenable situation. Claire seems to have an ideal life, married to a wealthy and charismatic politician widely known and admired for his philanthropy; behind the scenes, though, the man is controlling, manipulative and violent, and may very well have murdered his last paramour. Eva has made a career out of cooking drugs for a powerful dealer. She wants to change her life but knows her employer will literally have her killed if there's any hint she wishes to leave. An encounter at an airport leads the two women to swap identities, but neither truly understands that she's stepping into a situation at least as dangerous as the one she's fleeing. The plot is further complicated by the crash of the airplane Eva is to have boarded (and that Claire was originally meant to have taken).

The narrative alternates between the two women. While Claire's chapters are set in the present, Eva's are limited to the past. This makes sense and works very well; throughout the novel the author casts plenty of uncertainty about whether Eva actually got on the doomed flight, and keeping her in the past maintains the mystery of her fate up to the very end of the book. Eva's story line charts her descent from naïve college student to professional narcotics manufacturer, exploring how her experiences influenced the person she became, as well as her disappointment in herself for the damage she knowingly inflicts on others. This is a compelling approach that asks readers to ponder questions such as how much responsibility we bear for our poor decisions in life, and whether or not change is possible in some circumstances. Claire's chapters, on the other hand, focus on how she adapts to suddenly having a new life while constantly worried that her past will catch up with her. Throughout her story, readers will undoubtedly ask themselves how they would respond in similar circumstances and whether Claire makes the right choices to best protect herself.

The novel is mostly character-driven, but it does have scenes of heart-stopping suspense that keep the pages flying late into the night. I can think of several instances where I literally gasped out loud at a particularly high-stress plot twist (and it was fun watching my spouse hit those same passages and have an identical reaction). The story isn't completely airtight — there are minor cases where an action or plot point doesn't seem entirely probable — but overall I found the novel highly entertaining and it was easy to overlook the negligible flaws.

The only real shortcoming of the book is that while Claire's and Eva's characters are fully developed, the rest of the cast isn't as finely drawn; Claire's husband in particular is a cardboard villain, completely one-dimensional. A federal DEA officer closing in on the drug operation isn't much better defined, nor is Eva's next-door neighbor Liz. The author exhibits such remarkable skill in bringing her main characters to life that it's somewhat disappointing that she doesn't extend her craft to the rest of the crew.

The Last Flight is the perfect antidote for summer malaise and makes a terrific "beach read." Its fast pace and relatable main characters will undoubtedly provide a much-needed distraction for readers looking for sheer escapism. It also raises enough interesting questions to make a very good book group selection.

Reviewed by Kim Kovacs

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in July 2020, and has been updated for the May 2021 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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