THE LAST FAMILY by John Ramsey Miller


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 First novel about a serial killer who stalks the families of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) operatives, then about the man who stalks him. Miller opens with the gruesome slaughter of a Cub Scout on a field trip in the Smoky Mountains, thus diverting the boy's father (the killer's ultimate target) away from his wife, who is grieving from the recent death of her daughter--at the hands of the same killer, it turns out. The killer, creepy Martin Fletcher, shows up disguised as a doctor to dispense a lethal injection to the hapless wife. The scene then shifts to Montana, where former DEA agent Paul Masterson leads a solitary life in a remote mountain cabin, estranged from his wife, daughter, and son after a failed drug interdiction left him crippled and half-blind. Fletcher used to be a drug agent, too, and has sworn vengeance on the families of every former colleague he feels betrayed him. He's succeeded all too well and is down to his last family, the Mastersons. Paul, crippled in spirit as much as body, is brought back into the fray and ends up not only struggling to run down the maniacal Fletcher but dealing with nasty with departmental politics and a wife who doesn't know him (or trust him) anymore. The scenes in backwoods Montana are overdrawn, but Miller does his manhunt well, right down to his correctly rendered radio talk between Masterson and various pilots. And on the trail of death, Masterson begins to come alive again, to accept how deeply he cares about his family. Fletcher's no Hannibal Lector--he's clever enough, but Miller doesn't bring to bear a sufficiency of detail to convince you that such a killer could exist. Still, the author writes with a tough authority and knows how to generate suspense. There are more novels about serial killers than serial killers, but this one's a cut above. (Literary Guild main selection)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-553-10213-3
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1996


by Don Nelson