The Last Talk with Lola Faye
Review: Martin Lucas "Luke" Paige, a Harvard-educated historian, is in a St. Louis museum on tour to promote his latest book, Fatal Choices, when a woman from his past — his father's mistress — come up to him, suggesting they might get together for a drink, talk about old times in The Last Talk with Lola Faye, a novel of suspense by Thomas H. Cook.
The woman is, indeed, Lola Faye Gilroy, who used to work for Luke's father in a general store he owned Glenville, in rural Alabama. Luke was a teenager when he learned of his father's affair with her, and though he hated him for it, he never said a word to anyone. But then his father is murdered, Lola's husband Woody confessing to the crime in his own suicide note. Soon thereafter Luke's mother dies, and Luke leaves the small town — and the misery it provided — for Harvard, blaming in his mind Lola for all that had happened. So it is a shock that she's there with him now, decades later, suggesting a casual drink, to catch up on what's been happening in their respective lives. He surprises himself by agreeing, if only because they were "survivors, the only two people in the dreadful saga of [his] father's infidelity who had lived to talk about it."
The Last Talk with Lola Faye is a character study of two people who share a common past — and in many ways, a common present. The book is, essentially, a conversation between Luke and Lola Faye over the course of a couple hours. Luke at first can't understand why Lola Faye has appeared after all this time, but it becomes clear to him when she says, "Luke, there's one thing I always wanted to tell you, what Woody wrote in that note he left … that I made him do it? He didn't mean it that way. He didn't mean that I put him up to it."
A wave of relief passed over me. So this is why Lola Faye Gilroy had dragged herself from God knows where over to the Museum of the West on a wet December night. She'd come to make the case before me, clarify the issue Woody Gilroy had raised in his suicide note, rid herself of the guilt he'd laid at her feet, revisit all that in a talk with me, then enter her plea at the end of it: not guilty.
Luke considers himself smarter than anyone he knew in Glenville — he attended Harvard, after all — including Lola Faye, so having an intellectual explanation of why Lola Faye tracked him down makes some sense. And this premise is part of the mystery that ensues: Luke lets his guard down only to have Lola Faye raise issues that he had long since forgotten — or repressed. The Last Talk with Lola Faye is a perfectly paced novel in the tradition of a gothic thriller, but also a somewhat demanding one, in that information is not always presented in a linear manner, that, like any extended conversation, often goes off on tangents before returning to the central subject, sometimes in a different place and time … and state of mind.
Acknowledgment: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided a copy of The Last Talk with Lola Faye for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Quest for Anna Klein
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Hardcover), June 2011
ISBN-13: 9780547364643; ISBN-10: 0547364644
Location(s) referenced in The Last Talk with Lola Faye: St. Louis, Missouri
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The Last Talk with Lola Faye by Thomas H. Cook
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: August 2010
List Price: $25.00