Last Kiss – Louise Phillips

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Blurb:

A dark tale of deception and desire from the author of Red Ribbons and The Doll’s House
In a quiet suburb, a woman desperately clings to her sanity as a shadowy presence moves objects around her home.
In a hotel room across the city, an art dealer with a dubious sexual past is found butchered, his body arranged to mimic the Hangman card from the Tarot deck.
But what connects them?
When criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is brought in to help investigate the murder, she finds herself plunged into a web of sexual power and evil which spreads from Dublin to Paris, and then to Rome.
Will Kate discover the identity of the killer before it’s too late to protect the innocent? But what separates the innocent from the guilty when the sins of the past can never be forgotten?

Last Kiss is the first book I’ve read by Irish psychological crime writer Louise Phillips, but it definitely won’t be the last. It’s her third book, and they all feature the criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson as their main protagonist. Kate has recently separated from her partner, and is sharing childcare of their son Charlie with him. There appears to be something of a tentative flirtation with Detective Inspector Adam O’Connor, who returns from a suspension early in the book, and, together with Detective Mark Lynch, they do the majority of the investigative work in this case, with, of course, Kate. I suspect we will see more of a relationship develop between Kate and Adam in further books, but don’t worry, crime fans, romantic connections very definitely take a back seat to the criminal investigation in this book!

Very quickly, with Kate’s help, the Garda conclude it is, unusually, a woman killer for whom they are searching. Investigations into the Tarot card clue find a possible linked case further afield – in Paris, nine years previously. Another case, this time in Rome, also flags up as being possibly similar. Kate and Adam are despatched across Europe to speak to the original investigators, and people who knew the victims and their social circle.

In between the chapters concentrating on the investigation, we also get short chapters from the perspective of the killer, explaining/justifying her thoughts and actions. There are others from the viewpoint of Dubliner Sandra Regan, who is convinced her husband Edgar is having an affair. Furthermore, she believes the other woman has been breaking into her home, moving things around, as well as writing in her diary, but she doesn’t speak to the police, as she fears she would sound insane. The wife of Rick Shevlin, the victim in the Dublin hotel room, had also suspected she was being stalked – as had the wife of the Italian victim. A pattern appears to be forming of a woman who seduces her male victims, and then, when she tires of them, or they prove unworthy of her attentions, she murders them, grotesquely posing the body to resemble the picture on a Tarot card. Kate also suspects the killer has a strong interest in art, or photography, as furniture in the crime scenes have been moved to provide reflections of the crime scene. Also, all the victims had either studied art, or worked in artistic careers.

The term “psychological thriller” is bandied about a lot these days, mainly to describe any book where all may not be as it initially appears. This, however, is a psychological thriller in the truest sense, as the answer to the murders, and their motivations, lies in the damaged psyche of the murderer. For this reason, Kate’s input is crucial, and the investigation eventually leads back, as psychology inevitably does, to where it all began for the murderer – her childhood home, a place of sexual and physical abuse, where the murderer learnt to equate sex with love, as this was the only way she was treated with any affection. Here, she first learnt to use her sexual wiles. Her sole ally was a close female friend whose home life was also less than ideal, and together they played with Tarot cards and studied their meanings. The portrayal of the small Irish village where she grew up, a place where people were aware of the abuse in families, but said nothing to the authorities, rings very true. No-one wanted to get involved – although, perhaps if someone had, a young vulnerable girl would not have grown into a ruthless killer.

The conclusion of this book is truly heart-stopping, and, as expected, sees our main characters in mortal danger – I read until 4 am last night (thank God it was a Friday night!), frantically turning the pages to reach the conclusion. The “twist in the tale” is also expertly executed (the mere possibility only occurred to me the page before it was revealed!)

I have no idea how much psychology Louise Phillips has studied, but all the conclusions Dr Kate Pearson reaches appear, to my uneducated ear, perfectly feasible. It’s also intriguing, and fairly unusual, to have a female serial killer. I definitely want to get my hands on the first two by Louise Phillips (Red Ribbons and The Doll’s House, if you’re interested) and will be looking out for any further books in the series, where, hopefully, we’ll get to know Dr Kate Pearson a little better – with all the investigative work going on, Kate remains difficult to know, although possibly this is because it’s the first book in the series I’ve read. If you’re a fan, like me, of Nicci French’s excellent Frieda Klein series, or of Kate Rhodes’ similarly wonderful Alice Quentin books, you’ll find a great deal to enjoy in Louise Phillips work.

I’d like to thank the author, and Hachette Ireland, for supplying me with a copy of the book, in exchange for an unbiased review.

14 thoughts on “Last Kiss – Louise Phillips

    • I don’t know if you’ve read the Frieda Klein books, but not dissimilar. Although the Nicci French series has slightly better characterisation, but they’re old hands at that writing lark! Kate Rhodes I only came across last year, but was very impressed. I think everyone is interested in psychology – especially aberrant psychology, and its causes.

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    • I think Sarah at Crime Pieces liked it; she said it was “creepy” – and it is! I’ll definitely read the first two – once, of course, my massive TBR pile has decreased…!

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    • Thanks, Christine! Yes, it’s unusual, and that’s partly why the book is so fascinating. Strangely, you ALMOST – but not quite! -feel sorry for her, as she is very much a product of her upbringing. However, when it comes to male serial killers, if there’s mention of childhood abuse society generally see it as merely an excuse for their violent and sadistic behaviour.

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  1. I’m a big fan of Louise Phillips – Red Ribbons is one of the best I’ve read in this genre. As you say the psychology in this book is integral to the plot and it is done extremely well. Glad you enjoyed this one 🙂

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    • I’ll look forward to Red Ribbons, when I am: a) allowed to buy books with impunity again; and b) when I can fit it into my reading schedule (at this rate it’ll be around 2017!) Having said that, you can always find space for a book you REALLY want to read. Plus it’s my birthday next month, so I might see if someone wants to buy me it, or an Amazon voucher. Maybe my parents or Mr C will feel generous. Plus my daughter has access to the massive Waterstones in Glasgow, so maybe I’ll drop her a hint…

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      • Yes my Mr thinks it is funny to ask how many books have I got to read? Obviously I evade answering directly and when pushed resort to outright lies but the huge pile of books on the dining room table sort of give me away! Having said that, I highly recommend it 😉

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      • I’ve won a few competitions on Twitter and various blogs in the last few weeks, and he’s been regarding these parcels, as well as ones containing ARCs, with suspicion, as if I’ve found some devious way of paying for all these books without them appearing in the bank statement! He also suggested, as I was clearly “on a lucky streak”, entering competitions for holidays etc, but I had to explain that people are more willing to give away a couple of books than a trip to Mauritius, sadly…But it does remind me of a woman who stays near my parents who entered tons of competitions, which her husband thought was a total waste of time, until she won a cheque for £30,000 (and that was back in the 80s!) So it’s always worth a try. I just tried one for a luxury weekend in Paris 😉

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  2. I have both RED RIBBONS and THE DOLL’S HOUSE on my shelf. And I am a fan of the Frieda Klein books and have read the first book in Kate Rhodes series. Guess I need to get started on this one. Kate Pearson sounds like a character I’ll enjoy meeting.

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    • I love the Frieda Klein books; I think they’re wonderful. Nicci French books have always been an automatic purchase for me, but the last few standalones weren’t quite so good – but they’re definitely back on form with the Frieda Klein series. As for Kate Rhodes, I was sent a review copy of The Winter Foundlings, without which I very possibly wouldn’t have come across her books at all, and I really enjoyed it. I managed to get a copy of the second one, A Killing Of Angels, but haven’t read it yet. I really enjoy the psychology aspect of the books, and the fact that the main characters are smart, independent women. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Kay.

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