John Searles creates a captivating and genre-defying story in his upcoming book, Her Last Affair. Skyla Hull is a widowed former nurse who’s losing her eyesight, and might just be losing her mind as well. Her property includes two small houses, and as the book opens Skyla rents the unoccupied one to Teddy Cornwell. He’s a charmer with a lovely British accent, and soon they’re sharing candlelit dinners.
But as they tell each other about their past, the tale unravels. We learn the details in bits and pieces, never completely able to trust the stories they tell. Secrets run deep and fast in this book, and I struggled to put it down.
Skyla lives in a small town and her property also includes a deserted drive-in movie theater. Pretty much everyone in town knows her, but she keeps them all at arm’s length. The way she connects with Teddy seems like an aberration, and Searles waits until the last moments to explain what they really have in common.
This is a literary, convoluted, mystery with odd characters. Reading it is like looking at life through Skyla’s failing eyes. The corners are dark and nothing is at all clear. If you’re in the mood for something off-kilter but not off-putting, this is for you.
Searles never hits just one genre, and that’s a hallmark of his writing style. There’s an undercurrent of horror, but not so much that you miss the relationship between the characters. Of course, they’re all damaged goods, which only made me love them more.
Like any good grave digger, Searles show us each deeper foot slowly. Just when you think you’ve settled into the worst secret, the story burrows deeper still. If you want every layer doled out as the author intended, don’t read the author acknowledgments until the book is finished!
I originally picked up Searles’ books because my father was also John Searles, although I don’t think we’re related. But now after reading two of his books, I’ll keep coming back for his storytelling skill.
I recommend Her Last Affair if you like a good, creepy mystery with strong pacing and a unique storyline.
Pair with Still Waters by Viveca Sten since they’re both set in small towns. Or try The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair for a slow-building mystery.
Many thanks to NetGalley, William Morrow / Custom House / Mariner Books, and the author for a digital advanced reader’s copy in exchange for this honest review. Her Last Affair will be available on March 22, 2022.
Thanks for commenting, Elizabeth. I’ll be curious to hear if you pick this one up again. And then, of course, what you think at the end!