The Last Time I Saw You

by Liv Constantine
Harper, May 2019, $26.99

Lynne and Valerie Constantine, sisters who write under the pen name Liv Constantine, follow up their debut thriller, The Last Mrs. Parrish, with The Last Time I Saw You. Set in the world of high society, the mystery is so immersed in a glittering, servant-filled milieu that it may not be apparent at first that it is set in the present day and not the Victorian era. After the buzz of the main character’s cellphone a chapter in, however, contemporary tech plays a major part.

The narration is split between two women, Kate English and Blaire Barrington, former boarding school friends who were once as close as sisters, but have now been estranged for over a decade. Kate was born into wealth and seems to have a perfect life with a career as a surgeon, a handsome husband, and an adorable daughter. Blaire, once a nouveau riche outsider when she arrived at boarding school, has found her own success as a bestselling mystery novelist with her cowriter husband.

When Kate’s mother, Lily, is murdered, Kate invites Blaire back into her life. Anxious to prove herself to her old friend, Blaire eagerly accepts. By virtue of her writing, Blaire’s also something of an amateur sleuth, Jessica Fletcher style, and the two women investigate Lily’s death, unearthing secrets and conflicts from the past along the way. Kate begins to receive creepy warnings in the form of sinister nursery rhymes, and as the source is clearly close, she becomes more and more paranoid, with Blaire the only person in her life that she can trust.

At times neither character is totally sympathetic. Blaire has a chip on her shoulder and proves to be willing to do just about anything to find the killer—at least as long as it’s the person she wants it to be. Kate is consumed by paranoia and anxiety and lashes out at those around her. Is someone really out to get her, or is she losing her mind?

The murder itself is less the focus of the story than it initially appears to be. What this novel is really about is female friendship, how two intimates can become estranged, and whether that estrangement can ever be truly repaired. The ending, which skillfully ties up most of the loose ends, redeems the often-frustrating middle portions. It’s a surprise in more ways than one and trying to figure out what happened will keep the reader guessing—and reading.

Margaret Agnew
Teri Duerr
May 2019