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last pines

The Last Pines is Tom Saunders’ third novel (Reuben Books, 2019).

Something happened in the café on Marriott’s fifty-second birthday that was impossible for any sane man to believe and it would change his life forever. 

Reviews will be posted at Goodreads.

The softback book will be published on 17 August 2019. Cover price £10. 

Free UK postage if purchased here. Subsidized postage overseas: £4 extra.

ISBN: 978-1-9993172-1-8. 218pp.

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Review from Webb Johnson 23 July 2019:

The Last Pines is a compelling, fast-paced murder mystery that opens with an almost surreal, nightmarish assassination in a small café’ where the main character, Marriott is commemorating his 52nd birthday with only coffee and a celebratory almond pastry for company. He’s frozen in place as the grisly shooting scene unfolds with all the other terrified patrons and staff diving for cover from the terrifying gunfire that results in the bloody death of three expensively dressed men at a very nearby table. Marriott suspects he will be the next to die, but he stays in place as if watching a movie, powerless to control the ironic destiny of dying on his birthday.

The compelling, page-turning answers to “why and who” of murder mysteries begins when Marriott faces the shooter wondering if he will be next to feel a bullet. A red scarf slips from her face and he sees who might be (is likely?) his own daughter.

This is an irresistible opening – perhaps the best I’ve ever read, and the mystery only deepens and become more intriguing as the narrative continues with believable characters and dialogue artfully addressing the questions posed in the irresistible opening paragraphs.

The language of the narrator and dialogue of the characters is slightly elevated, and I felt as though I was reading a story written by one of the masters. The relationship and dialogue between Marriott and his bookstore employee, Paulo, is priceless for its inimitable humor – relationship with the female characters created a second level of sympathy for me.

The storytelling itself reveals the talented, confident author who has mastered the craft. There are actually two stories, the main narrative and a back-story running parallel to each other, each one almost standing on its own, but informing and enlivening the other.

The Last Pines is a fine work of literary fiction and a wonderful page-turning murder mystery. No spoilers – this is must read. I can’t think of a murder mystery thriller I enjoyed more.


This is how the story begins:

It was one o’clock on March the 5th 1970, Marriott’s 52nd birthday. He was sitting in a small café in the handsome foreign city that had been his home for many years and he’d just finished his coffee and celebratory almond pastry when the young woman came through the door. She was wearing a long black leather overcoat and a black fur hat and the bottom half of her face was obscured by a red scarf. The three expensively-dressed men sitting at a table at the rear of the room were laughing loudly at a joke. All three looked her over as she approached but they did not judge her to be a threat until she took an automatic pistol from her coat pocket and began shooting. Two were dead before they had a chance to move, their eyes wide and their mouths open. The third got up out of his seat and drew his own gun. The woman shot him in the head as he raised his arm to take aim. She went closer and shot all three again to make absolutely certain they were dead.

Everyone else in the café, the staff behind the counter and all the other customers, had taken cover. Marriott, perhaps mesmerized by the unreality of the situation and surprisingly without fear, remained as he was, his fingers still on the handle of his cup. Time had slowed and it occurred to him as the sound of the gunshots rang on in his ears that his life might soon be over. Death on the day of his birth. His fate a kind of joke. He’d not expected his end to come like this.

The girl with the gun stood framed by the window of the café. The snow was still falling outside, the large flakes drifting silently to the ground. Decked with white, the buildings on the far side of the street had never looked more beautiful. It was a lyrical sight, one perfect for a final moment, the scene his parting gift, perhaps.

The young woman turned to leave and as she looked his way the scarf slipped. Her face was pale and without expression and her eyes were large and dark. It was a face Marriott knew well. It was the face of Maya his daughter. She was grown-up now, he saw with a kind of wonder, grown-up and a murderer. She did not recognize him. He was a stranger to her. A no-one. Part of a past she did not remember. Ignoring him, she quickly twisted the scarf back into place and let the automatic fall from her gloved hand. It hit the floor with a solid clunk. A few seconds later she was gone.