on 28 January 2011
In a year when most of the true masters of the American thriller have disappointed, along comes Thomas H. Cook to save the day. Cook writes psychological thrillers of nearly unbearable intensity and stunning originality. When you read Cook you know you are reading a novel that has never been written before, and where it will take you, you cannot guess. His latest - The Last Talk with Lola Fay - is at the very top of his class, there is no greater praise. Set in St Louis during the course of one evening two one-time acquaintances meet for a quiet drink and a talk over old times when they both lived in poverty stricken Glenville, Alabama. As the conversation unfolds the scabs are ripped off old memories, the circumstances of terrible events are called into question, three people die for no good reason and the reader is led to a terrible conclusion, except I defy any reader to correctly guess where he's being led. Written elegiacally as always by America's best crime novelist - or if not the best, there is no better - this is a book that thrills from the moment of unwrapping to a multiplicity of undone chores later. Cook's clarity and jewelled sharpness of metaphor is always a treat, never more so than here. 'Religion is Santa Claus for grown-ups' says Lola Fay. Just read it.
on 19 January 2011
Thomas H Cook is not as well known as he should be. His dark centred mystery books are beautifully written, insistent and memorable.
The Last Talk with Lola Faye is based around a conversation between the narrator and Lola Faye, who was a central figure in the violent events of years ago that changed lives.
As the talk progresses, memories return, each one casting light on those events and on the character of the protagonist. And as the memories expand everything seems less obvious, more threatening, as Lola, with her apparently naive questions gradually brings out the truth.
The reader, however, never knows just what is going to happen and who is going to be revealed as guilty and why, until right at the end, when expectations are quite overturned.
Thomas H Cook doesn't go in for action-packed, thrill-a-page, "unputdownable" formulaic novels. His books are thoughtful and powerful and stick in the mind. Many of his best books are concerned with raising ghosts, with the truth of what has happened in the past and has been supressed gradually reasserting itself. Buried secrets are revealed, and with them the damage to present lives because of past crimes is illuminated and explained..
Poetic...dark...suspenseful...satisfying. For this reader each of these words aptly describe award winning author Thomas H. Cook's beautifully written novel THE LAST TALKWIHT LOLA FAYE. Reading it is a bit like watching an absorbing two person play as the story is revealed in a conversation between two characters - Lucas "Luke" Page and Lola Faye Gilroy.
Luke is a fair to middling professor and writer who has come to St. Louis to deliver a lecture at the Museum of the West. It's a dreary, wet December evening, and he doesn't anticipate much of a crowd - there seldom is at his lectures. However, the last person he expected or wanted to see was Lola Faye Gilroy, his father's mistress. Her husband had shot and killed his father, and then killed himself. All of this in Glenville, Alabama, a tired Southern town where his father ran a variety store.
Now, Glenville was not your pretty little town but a place pockmarked by abandoned storefronts "their empty windows staring like blinded eyes onto deserted sidewalks....and a windowless library housed in the basement of the police department." Plus "a trailer park perpetually pulsing in the light of a police cruiser, diesel trucks sitting like exhausted mastodons in red-dirt driveways." It was a place Luke couldn't wait to leave - of course, he would leave because he was considered to be "the smartest kid in town." As far as he was concerned Glenville limited his intellectual prowess; he believed that some day he would write a great novel. Yet here he was some years later addressing a sparse audience, and unable to turn Lola Faye down when she urged him to have a drink with her.
As one drink turns into several and their conversation moves on Luke becomes introspective, looking back upon events, mistakes he had made, remembering Fitzgerald saying "you lose yourself in pieces." He wonders if his first small deceit was where the first piece of him had fallen away.
Luke had believed he knew all about his father, an uninspired man who wasn't even able to run a small store efficiently, and left his mother alone for trysts with Lola Faye. He was a man Luke was never able to please, Yet, as the story progresses we find out just how little he really knows about his family or himself.
THE LAST TALK WITHLOLA FAYE is a landmark novel, a story of regret and redemption that will remain with you long after closing the last page.
- Gail Cooke
on 17 December 2012
Just when I was congratulating myself that I no longer had anything to do with Kindle's Daily Deal I took a wee peek and saw that today's offering was the usual waffle-and-maple-syrup fare. Nice when you bite into it, but then you read the label more closely and see that it's only 10% real maple-syrup and the waffle mix had far too much bicarb in and you swear you're never going to eat one of those again.
What I didn't suspect was that the label to this packet had a little Alice Door in it. The book didn't interest me really. I could easily prove it by downloading the free sample just to prove how right I was. The sample arrived, remarkably quickly too considering it was Kindle PaperWhite with its 'free 3G' which is so grotty it's almost a Con.
Imagine that you'd dressed for an evening out at The Theatre. You're going to see Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire and it's going to be your fourth time. You've selected your fondest, wistfullest, yeah bestest outfit in your wardrobe as you've heard it said that the new actress playing Blanche Dubois is Something Else. That's why you've gone to so much trouble trouble dressing.
When you get to the Stage you find you're right. Spot on..
Except that in this tale, Blanche isn't quite Blanche, is she? This lady who's described as drab, humdrum, shabby, a mere redneck girl, seems to have got a remarkably pointed mind, even if she gets it from the boring show Dragnet, or the magazine article she half read while waiting to see the doctor.
If Lola Faye backwater education makes her perception little more than a rusty blade, it's evident to me at least that one one of those hicks sure got the knack of brewing poky cider vinegar to use in knife sharpening. When Lola Faye's blade is dipped in this acerbic brew, the knife becomes insidious. Yet she always remains the shabby, dowdy stacker girl who just asks a question or two. To clear things up, considering it's going to be their Last Talk.
Before I knew it, I found that Lola Faye was creeping under my skin. Like chiggers, it was hell to live with, but Heaven when I scratched it. And I did plenty of that. Lola Faye made her shabby entrance into my slumber, dropped a few words and made to leave. "Come Back!" I called. "Read on then!" came the rejoinder. Which was exactly what I did. At 4.10 am, with my cup of hot Darjeeling and my cooling fan, I read on, sipping until daybreak when I heard a voice through the window telling me my hot water was ready and it was time to bathe.
My day's schedule was full and there'd be no time for Lola Faye today. Except after bathing and being swadled, there seemed little harm in slipping out a hand to peek at the Kindle. Especially when it tells you you've got 10 minutes remaining until you reach the end of the chapter, when she jacks out that there's 'just one more thing.'
Dammit, I'm going to miss her, the shabby backwoods girl who educates herself from magazines and TV shows. Never has a humdrum character with such an exotic name made so much impression on me; without revealing too much of her own story, Lola Faye manages to expose ever increasing piles of evidence against the protagonist Luke. Luke whom we're supposed to sympathise with. Our taste buds somehow grow against him and we warm to Lola, even as we also admit that we don't know why.
It all seems so complete, so done-and-dusted, until we're almost convinced we had a peek of Lieutenant Colombo's tatty overcoat under that frumpy dress of hers.
on 18 January 2013
I found this book to be compelling and loved the gentle "walk" like pace as it led you through the story .It`s intrigue was spoilt however by the ending ,which seemed rushed ,as if the author was running behind schedule .Yes a great book ,but I think a different ending would have improved it ..............for me anyway !
on 8 January 2013
Although I liked the idea of this book from the synopsis, I have to be honest and say it didn't thrill me.
I found it slightly dusty, and difficult to place in time. It felt like the story was set in an older time, alhough references to current inventions such as the internet proved it wasn't. I realise this may be deliberate, as the novel is set in deep south America where life is famed for being as I described.
I was also slightly let down by the ending. The twist wasn't deep enough to shock me, and without wanting to spoil it for anyone the final few pages just weren't enough.
I didn't feel the story flowed well, and the points where the story caused the main character to 'go back in time' in his memories were in some cases quite clunky.
I hate to leave what I feel is negative review but I'm afraid this book just didn't do it for me.
on 23 January 2013
I found this psychological mystery a bit hard to get in to at first. The protagonist Luke, a lonely historian on a lecture tour, appears less than compelling, but a couple of chapters in and I was hooked! After his lecture in St Louis he is button-holed by a figure from his past, Lola Faye, his dead father's former mistress, who has been following his career and personal life with interest. In the course of their conversation over dinner more and more details are revealed about horrific events of long ago,as Luke is forced by the turns of the conversation to confront the truth about the past. Thomas H. Cook kept me guessing right to the end as to what wrongs had and had not been done, by whom and to whom, and ends the novel on an optimistic note of redemption.
on 23 February 2013
This is the first novel by this author I've read. I was very pleasantly surprised with the author's skill. (I shouldn't have been really but I'd probably classed him subconsciously in my "popular American crime writers" category.) Not only is the writing style good but the way in which during the "talk" the author develops and subtly shifts the reader's preception of Lola's and Luke's characters is first class. In some ways not much happens in this novel - it's not an action thriller - but I found it had plenty of suspense and was engaging throughout. I shall certainly be reading more Thomas H Cook.
on 18 February 2013
Have just finished reading this. It took me more than a week to read it, whereas I normally finish a book in three days. I found the slow pace very annoying and wanted to get to the end. However, it was compelling enough that I did not give up.
As other readers have said the ending is unexpected but, in my opinion, it is not mind-blowing.
I can appreciate the skill of the author but it certainly was not a riveting read.
on 8 January 2013
As someone who once I have started a book I persevere until the bitter end, but even I am finding this hard going.
As one of the other reviews said it is just a conversation between 2 people with the murder of a father the supposed mystery to keep you reading.
Will I admit defeat on this one? Probably not, but really, life is too short. you never know it may surprise me (very last chapter knowing my luck)