Last Known Contact, by Phillipa Nefri Clark

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Phillipa Nefri Clark for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always up for a strong police procedural, this book by Phillipa Nefri Clark offers a great Aussie flavouring, as a missing persons case brings out a whole bunch of professional and personal skeletons from a closet already full of secrets. When Ellie Connor arrives back in Melbourne from a business trip, she is met with the headline that her father has gone missing. Jack Bannerman, CEO of Bannerman Wealth Group, was last seen headed to his yacht. Since then, his family and colleagues have been trying to find out where he might have gone. Ellie panics and scours the area, finding nothing but a voicemail asking her to go to their ‘secret spot’ where Jack’s left her a letter. There is nothing there, but Ellie’s estranged husband, Dennis, seems ready to dismiss any concerns Jack’s disappearance may bring. When police detective Ben Rossi arrives on scene, Ellie cannot help but remember the connection they once shared, making things a tad more awkward than she might have hoped. At the office, Bannerman Wealth Group’s Head of Security, Paul Dekeles tries to help and console Ellie, while also appearing to inch closer to her in a less than professional manner. When a local fisherman goes missing, everyone begins to wonder if a serial murderer might be on the loose, which is further exacerbated by the fact that a body is seen floating in the harbour. If this were not enough, Ellie soon learns of a major business decision of which she was not aware, something that could change the tenor of the investigation and open new possible leads to an already complicated case. A fast-paced story that keeps the reader guessing until all the pieces fall into place. Recommended for those who love a good mystery where family ties are severed, as well as the reader who enjoys a police procedural with some dramatic flair.

While I have never read Phillipa Nefri Clark, the dust jacket blurb alone made me want to dive right in. The story begins swiftly and never loses its momentum, as much is revealed about Jack Bannerman and the web many of the core characters have spun for themselves. At the centre of it all is Ellie Conner, whose return to Australia seems to have led to a massive investigation about her father’s disappearance. The reader learns much about Ellie’s backstory, including her closeness to a brother who was once quite a role model for her. After fleeing the confines of the family bubble, Ellie returns to make her mark on one part of the Bannerman empire, though some of her rash choices have not worked out as she had hoped. Struggling with some emotions for the man in charge of locating her father, Ellie must remain professional and try to determine where her future will take her. Discovering some less than savoury things that are going on within the family, Ellie tries to process it all without falling apart. Her connection to Jack Bannerman is obvious, but there is surely a strain between them that has yet to heal. Clark utilises a few other core characters who serve various roles, if not suspects in the disappearance. They each bring a little something to the table and provide the reader with the needed backstories to make their guilt quite plausible. Working in tandem, they help create added depth to an already great narrative and keep things on the mark throughout. The story was strong and the plot development had me quite impressed. With a mix of chapter lengths, Clark keeps the reader wondering where the next twist will come and how it plays into the larger theme of the book. Part mystery, part emotional discovery, this is one book that is sure to make waves and earn Phillipa Nefri Clark a slew of new fans, myself included.

Kudos, Madam Clark, for a highly entertaining piece. I cannot wait to see what else you’ve written and see how it compares to this piece.

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