The Last Act (Last Act #1), by Brad Parks

Eight stars

After thoroughly enjoying my first venture into the world of Brad Parks—a prequel short story—I thought I would take a dive into the complementing full-length novel. For fans who remember how The Whistleblower ended, this is a wonderful means of continuing to discover more about the life and choices of Mitch Dupree. With Dupree locked away, the Mexican cartel he sought to uncover wants his head, but he was smart enough to hide away some key documents in an undisclosed location. The Feds want access and will use this to bring down the largest distributor of crystal meth in the United States. To do so, they turn to Tommy Jump, a musical theatre actor who has been down on his luck. Asking him to perform in his most daring role yet, Jump will have to go undercover and befriend Mitch Dupree, learning where the documents are being stored. However, this is easier said than done, even for a man who prides himself on being able to handle any role. Life in prison, even minimum security, is nothing like he expected. The large payout will help his pregnant fiancée, but will it be enough. Using a pseudonym, Jump enters the prison system and tries to nonchalantly get closer to Dupree. The Feds are on the outside, willing to help, but so is the cartel. They have approached Dupree’s wife and made their own threats, making the cache of documents all the more important. With Jump wanting to get this acting job complete, he will do most anything to learn Dupree’s secret, but will it come at a price that costs him a curtain call? Parks does a masterful job of taking the reader inside the world of prisons, cartels, and continues the action surrounding a massive money laundering scheme. Recommended to those who love thrillers with a twist and the reader who may enjoy prison-based novels. While not essential, it helps to have read the prequel short story for the nuanced details.

I always enjoy finding new authors and Brad Parks is one that will remain on my radar. Both the short story and this novel are full of great detail and intriguing storytelling, keeping me hooked from the opening pages through to the impactful ending of this piece. Parks uses another soft-hearted character as a protagonist, this time with Tommy Jump. A struggling actor who is trying to make it in the cutthroat world, his fiancée pregnant with their first child, Jump will do most anything to advance himself. With a massive payout and the chance to help the Feds, Jump leaps at the chance to help. He must know his target, Mitch Dupree, but also pretend not to know anything about him. As the novel progresses, Jump learns the ins and outs of prison life, as well as the place Mitch Dupree has made for himself in short order. The reader is also able to learn a little more about Dupree, who is trying to get through this sentence for a crime he did not commit. He knows the truth and yet cannot prove anything. Wanting to blow the whistle, he does not yet have enough to ensure his family’s safety once and for all. This novel gives the reader more time to connect with him, even while he is not the main focus. The secondary characters do serve a great purpose and entertain as well as educate. Working the angles of prison life, the looming cartel, and trying to decipher the details of the financial crimes, the reader can use the strong collection of characters to weave their way through the story. The story was strong and left me feeling fully invested in the piece. I can only hope that there is more to come, both in this story, and with more Parks that I can enjoy. I see major awards and at least one full series into which I can sink my teeth. I hope others will follow my lead or fans of the author will look into this series.

Kudos, Mr. Parks, for a great continuation of this series. I am eager to get my hands on more of your writing!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: