Last Seen Alive by Joanna Schaffhausen and The Appeal by Janice Hallett #BookReview #Thriller #Mystery

Last Seen Alive is the fifth book in Joanna Schaffhausen’s heartpounding Ellery Hathaway mystery series.

Boston detective Ellery Hathaway met FBI agent Reed Markham when he pried open a serial killer’s closet to rescue her. Years on, their relationship remains defined by that moment and by Francis Coben’s horrific crimes. To free herself from Coben’s legacy, Ellery had to walk away from Reed, too. But Coben is not letting go so easily. He has an impossible proposition: Coben will finally give up the location of the remaining bodies, on one condition—Reed must bring him Ellery.

Now the families of the missing victims are crying out for justice that only Ellery can deliver. The media hungers for a sequel and Coben is their camera-ready star. He claims he is sorry and wants to make amends. But Ellery is the one living person who has seen the monster behind the mask and she doesn’t believe he can be redeemed. Not after everything he’s done. Not after what she’s been through. And certainly not after a fresh body turns up with Coben’s signature all over it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Last Seen Alive by Joanna Schaffhausen is an edge-of-your-seat thriller about a serial killer, the media’s obsession with him, and the only survivor from his path of destruction.

This is the 5th book in the Ellery Hathaway series but can easily be read as a stand-alone novel (as I did) because there is just the right amount of back story provided.  This makes it very easy to fall right into it.  Of course, the challenge is that once you finish it, you will want to go back and read the first four – you are going to love it that much. 

Ellery is so relatable, which is impressive considering her history.  She has qualities that just made me gravitate toward her and stay on her side even when she made some foolhardy decisions.  She works very hard not to let past tragedies define her, and I found that very easy to understand and root for.  And, Reed Markham…well, he is the quintessential hero you can’t help but like.

The pacing is so quick that, even though the book dives into the horrific killings of the serial killer, Francis Coben, I barely had time to dwell on the violence as the story jets on to the next thrill, the next puzzle, or the next revelation.  I appreciated this as I can only stomach so much graphic violence.

Lastly, I loved the ending…absolutely, positively, loved the way it ended.  To end such a dark story on a heartwarming positive note was just genius, and I totally ate it up and wanted more.

If you are looking for a fast-paced thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and leave you with a happy heart, you won’t want to miss this incredible story by Joanna Schaffhausen – Last Seen Alive.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

The Fairway Players, a local theatre group, is in the midst of rehearsals when tragedy strikes the family of director Martin Hayward and his wife Helen, the play’s star. Their young granddaughter has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and with an experimental treatment costing a tremendous sum, their fellow castmates rally to raise the money to give her a chance at survival.

But not everybody is convinced of the experimental treatment’s efficacy—nor of the good intentions of those involved. As tension grows within the community, things come to a shocking head at the explosive dress rehearsal. The next day, a dead body is found, and soon, an arrest is made. In the run-up to the trial, two young lawyers sift through the material—emails, messages, letters—with a growing suspicion that a killer may be hiding in plain sight. The evidence is all there, between the lines, waiting to be uncovered.

A wholly modern take on the epistolary novel, The Appeal is a “daring…clever, and funny” (The Times, London) debut for fans of Richard Osman and Lucy Foley.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is an innovative new mystery told solely through documents by or to the suspects in the case, including police interviews, emails, and text messages.

The story is about a cast of small-town performers and a little girl with cancer who needs lots of money for an experimental medicine.  One of the cast members turns up dead, and students are assigned to look at the paper trail to figure out: Who is the killer?  Who knew about it before the body was discovered?  And, what was the motive?

I gave The Appeal five stars because of the technique used to tell the story – which is entirely through emails, text messages, interviews, and other such documents. This technique required my full attention from start to finish. I loved this approach once, but I would definitely not want to see it in every mystery. Ordinarily, I love a good story complete with an immersive atmosphere and characters you can empathize with. But to put me in the eyes of the students assigned to find the murder through the provided documents was a fascinating twist and approach. There are plenty of proper clues as well as red herrings and misdirects to stump even the most experienced mystery solver out there.

This story is a complex mystery that is smart and compelling without the typical attributes you typically find in novels, such as atmosphere, character development, and an immersive setting.

If you are looking for unique story-telling and a complex mystery, look no further than The Appeal by Janice Hallett.

24 Replies to “Last Seen Alive by Joanna Schaffhausen and The Appeal by Janice Hallett #BookReview #Thriller #Mystery”

  1. These both sound good. I like the way the second book was told, but I agree it would be difficult to read many novels that way. Last Seen Alive really captured my attention. Thanks, Tessa.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I found out this week that Last Seen Alive is based on Ted Bundy. I thought that was kind of interesting.
      And, The Appeal is very cool to read. I never knew you’d be able to tell an effective mystery that way.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Bundy is one of a few serial killers I’m obsessed with. I read a lot about him and watch a lot of documentaries. I didn’t know that about this book, either, but now I’m even more intrigued.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m SO happy to see your review of The Appeal! I’ve waited almost a year for it to reach the US and just got it on audio. And, my library finally got the Ellery Hamilton series and I’m gonna start it. Your review of this 5th book almost makes me want to read out of order…(shudder!). Excellent reviews, Tessa💜

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I would love to go back and read the 4 previous even though it’s not needed to follow this one. So, if you have time to read them in order, I’d say that’s the best case scenario ❤️. And, I wonder how The Appeal will be on audio 🤔

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  3. I’ve read several novels with the same format as The Appeal and enjoyed them. I like the way it gradually reveals the story in a different way, but as you said I wouldn’t want it for every book. Thanks for the recs, Tessa!

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  4. I feel as though I should read The Appeal just because the author has the same surname as me, 😂. The storytelling format sounds very innovative. Having said that the blurb of Last Seen Alive appeals so much more. Both reviews are excellent – so detailed and informative

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  5. So interesting that The Appeal is only documents and emails, etc. Sounds very different.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am reading The Appeal right now and it is definitely different. I am not very far into it, so haven’t made up my mind yet. I actually just watched the author event with Joanna Schaffhausen and it was quite interesting. Great reviews.

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