About the Book
Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.
Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life. . .
This novel opens with Hattie in an airport trying to get a flight out of her hometown. She fails in her endeavour and ends up alone in her car upset and trying to work out what on earth she will do next. From then on the novel has three narrators – Hattie, the local Sheriff Del, and Hattie’s teacher Peter. The book flits back and forth in time as we see what Hattie was up to in the months leading up to her death, and also in the days following her murder as the Sheriff, and others in her life, try to figure out who killed her and why.
A picture is gradually built up of Hattie and it’s very apparent that in many ways she was a typical teenage girl but also that she is much more ambitious for life than her peers. Hattie wants to move to New York and become an actress, and it’s this ambition that ultimately leads her astray. She joins online forums, and in her naivety about the way other people can hide themselves online, gets chatting to a man. This sets in motion a series of events that Hattie feels she is orchestrating but she doesn’t fully grasp that it’s not only her life that she is playing with.
The town Sheriff, Del, has known Hattie her whole life as he is very good friends with her father. This leads to us seeing Hattie through his eyes as a detective but also as a father-figure. It shows Hattie’s innocent side, and the depth of feeling that people had for her.
Peter’s narration is enlightening. He gets pulled into Hattie’s game but you never stop forgetting that he is her teacher and should take more care of her. He notices what she is doing with other people but doesn’t allow himself to truly see it, or perhaps doesn’t want to really to see it.
The title of this book is so perfect. Hattie’s last acting role is in Hamlet, where her character wears a white dress and ends up covered in blood, which is chillingly prescient, and behind the scenes she is pulling the strings to make things go her way. It feels like Hattie was a doomed character from the start- there is a real sense of fate in this novel, that she stepped on a path and it led her to her death. She wants to be an actress and spends her whole life playing the part that other people want her to be. She is one person with her friends, and another with her boyfriend. She doesn’t seem to know who she really is, while at the same time appearing all-knowing. This made me feel so sad for her, and even though you know from the beginning of this book that Hattie will be murdered, I couldn’t stop myself wishing that someone would notice something, would pull her off the path she was on, would save her. She really got under my skin and I feel like Hattie will stay with me for a long time to come.
I also loved the way that this novel bought the location of the book to life and the way that all the characters, even the more peripheral ones, felt real to me. By the end of the book I felt like I’d been to this town, that I knew these people in real life. The writing is beautiful and I already can’t wait to read what ever Mindy Mejia writes next.
This isn’t a fast-paced thriller but it is completely and utterly gripping and compelling. I read this in two sittings (and I really begrudged needing sleep otherwise I would have read it in one go!) and I still feel haunted by Hattie now, over a week after I finished reading.
I highly recommend The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman! The novel is out now and available from here.
I received a copy of this book from Quercus in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author
Mindy received a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Hamline University. Apart from brief stops in Iowa City and Galway, she’s lived in the Twin Cities her entire life and held a succession of jobs from an apple orchard laborer to a global credit manager.
She’s currently working on a project set in Duluth and the Boundary Waters that may or may not be a trilogy.
(Taken from author’s website: MindyMejia.com
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