First off, this is not a thriller. The subtitle to The Last Talk with Lola Faye is “a novel” and that is the correct description in my opinion. Thomas H. Cook delivers a few twists and turns in the book but while motivations may be shrouded there is no big psychological mystery nor are there chase scenes and other assorted perils. Instead Cook tells the story of a mediocre professor who one night unexpectedly meets the woman he holds responsible for his father’s murder. The conversation that follows, the talk of the title, takes the narrator back to his life in an Alabama town of reduced expectations.
Cook chooses to tell the bulk of the story in a series of flashbacks – a risky choice but it is mostly successful here. It helps that the writing is engaging and never fussy, and that the book is short (around 250 pages) so that it can be read in one gulp on a deckchair near the body of water of your choice. In fact this book is probably best read in one or two sessions. Broken up over days the story of Luke and Lola Faye might start to creak a bit. Can Luke really be so totally lacking in self-awareness? Taken at the right speed the story is revealing and entertaining, reminiscent of Barbara Vine. My only quarrel with the book, aside from the publisher’s choice of calling it a “thriller,” is the last chapter. It feels like a cop out, a tacked on happy ending that was already implied without hitting the reader over the head. Maybe that’s the publisher’s fault, too.
Recommended for fans of literary mysteries of the Barbara Vine variety.