Review: The Last Murder at the End of the World

The Last Murder at the End of the World Review

The Last Murder at the End of the World – Stuart Turton

Stuart Turton has become a regular in my Kindle rotation, establishing himself as a master of creating mind-bending mysteries. His debut novel, “The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle,” quickly became a global phenomenon and with good reason. The story is praised for its inventive ideas and its ability to keep readers guessing and engaged until the very last page. Turton’s follow-up to this, “The Devil and the Dark Water,” continued his exploration of intricate puzzles and unreliable narrators, solidifying his reputation for creating clever and suspenseful stories. With “The Last Murder at the End of the World,” Turton combines a tale of murder, survival, and the fate of humanity against a backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world.

Turton’s signature style relies heavily on complicated plots with ingenious twists and turns. His expert use of world-building places the reader directly into his ominous settings. He excels at creating scenarios that defy easy explanation, forcing readers to actively participate in piecing together the puzzle alongside his characters.

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His narratives are often characterized by erratic narrators and constantly shifting perspectives, forging a disconnect between what is real and what is deception. This creates a captivating sense of uncertainty and paranoia, as the characters’ situations and thoughts are always changing.

“The Last Murder at the End of the World” takes this formula and injects it into a riveting science-fiction mystery within a post-apocalyptic world. The story unfolds on a seemingly peaceful island, the last refuge for humanity after a deadly fog has ravaged the rest of the planet. Protected by a complex technological shield, the island’s 122 villagers live a peaceful life, overseen by three enigmatic scientists.

However, the sense of tranquility is soon shattered when one of the scientists is found murdered. The murder triggers a horrifying realization for those living on the island: the shield’s ability to protect the island is linked to the crime. With each passing hour, the shield’s power falls, threatening to expose the island and its inhabitants to the deadly fog. 

Emory, a resourceful villager, is placed into the role of investigator. Unfortunately, the investigation is hindered by a significant obstacle: everyone on the island, including Emory herself, has had their memories of the previous night wiped clean. With the clock ticking and no clear point of reference to work from, Emory must embark on a desperate quest to uncover the truth about the murder, navigating a web of secrets, hidden agendas of those living on the island, and a community on the brink of panic.

While the central mystery drives the plot, “The Last Murder at the End of the World” also explores thought-provoking themes. One of the overarching themes that complimented the sense of urgency is the fragility of knowledge and memory.

With the islanders’ memories being wiped clean at night, the foundation of their reality is constantly shifting. This creates a sense of ambivalence, as characters struggle to discern what to believe. It also raises questions about the importance of memory in shaping our identity and our understanding of the world around us. Without access to their past experiences, the islanders are forced to rely on incomplete information and shifting perspectives, making it difficult to build trust or form lasting bonds. Their lack of ability to completely find trust in one another adds to the complications and suspense of the mystery.

Furthermore, the story explores the concept of sacrifice and the lengths people will go to in order to protect their loved ones or their way of life. The scientists on the island are shrouded in secrecy, leaving the islanders constantly questioning their motives. Are they truly benevolent protectors, or are they clinging onto their own agendas?

The villagers, on the other hand, are faced with the difficult decision of prioritizing their own survival or the greater good of those around them. The murder investigation throws their well-established social order into chaos, forcing them to confront the potential for treachery even within their own tightly-knit community. 

The utopian island setting in “The Last Murder at the End of the World” serves as a stark contrast to the devastation that lies beyond it. While details about the outside world are limited, glimpses of the fog’s destructive power combined with weakening defenses of the island are enough to create an incessant sense of dread. This reinforces the sense of claustrophobia and the high stakes of the investigation. It also raises questions about the future of humanity. Can the island truly be considered a utopia, or is it merely a temporary reprieve from a world on the brink of extinction?

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I really enjoyed the layers of complexity in each scenario and character, as they not only fuel the looming feeling of hopelessness, but also showcase the determination and wits of Emory in her role as the protagonist. Despite everything going on around her, she sets herself aside from the other villagers and is committed to solving the mystery placed upon them, accompanied by her daughter, Clara. It’s a very interesting take on how easily convinced humans can be in times of desperation, as the other villagers blindly follow the “elders” of the island, all of which still have their memory of the world before. Intrigued by the thought of the past, the other citizens instill their confidence in them with hopes that will be a possibility for them again. 

Final Thoughts

“The Last Murder at the End of the World” is a fantastic thriller that will appeal to fans of Stuart Turton’s previous works as well as readers who enjoy genre-bending mysteries with high stakes and clever puzzles. With its blend of science fiction, murder mystery, and complex social commentary, Turton solidifies his position as a leader in suspenseful mysteries and thrillers, with this book being nothing short of an amazing showcase of his talents. 

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