Last Breath: Quite the introduction to Karin Slaughter

Last Breath Book Review

What is this about?: Charlie Quinn is at a Scout meeting when she meets Flora, who asks her to help her become emancipated from her grandparents. Charlie dives headlong into the case, determined to help Flora, which brings up her own experiences with her family.

What else is this about?: It’s an introduction to Charlie Quinn, her family and her past in anticipation (I think, because that’s how I’m reading it) of Karin Slaughter’s newest full-length novel: The Good Daughter

Blurb: Protecting someone always comes at a cost.

At the age of thirteen, Charlie Quinn’s childhood came to an abrupt and devastating end. Two men, with a grudge against her lawyer father, broke into her home—and after that shocking night, Charlie’s world was never the same.

Now a lawyer herself, Charlie has made it her mission to defend those with no one else to turn to. So when Flora Faulkner, a motherless teen, begs for help, Charlie is reminded of her own past, and is powerless to say no.

But honor-student Flora is in far deeper trouble than Charlie could ever have anticipated. Soon she must ask herself: How far should she go to protect her client? And can she truly believe everything she is being told?

Razor-sharp and lightning-fast, this electrifying story from the #1 international bestselling author will leave you breathless. 

Stars: 4/5

I love a good thriller, but I love it even more when there’s a short story (or novella if you prefer) that helps me figure out if I want to actually read the big new novel that the famous author — in this case Karin Slaughter — has written. It’s like a safety blanket before getting to the big event? Any one else appreciate novels like this? 

I mean, it can be a bit of a mixed bag because why should long time fans go for the short story if the longer book has it all, but then they’re just there, mocking you if you don’t read them — that’s me and Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books. And short stories. But I digress…

This is a character-focused story, letting readers get to know Charlie Quinn, her marriage and her past — and her parents. She is a determined woman, shaped by the loss of her mother and her father’s choices as a child — he’s a lawyer too, the one that defends the criminals and stands up for the law. Some of those clients are grateful and others attack his family changing it forever. 

Charlie, in this book, is about as settled as she can be — she has a loving and a Star-Trek loving husband, who is ridiculously cute in his fanboy sensibilities. Their relationship isn’t explored much, and the lines of their lawyer-lives are clearly set in this story — they do not discuss their cases, which means Charlie is left on her own in the aftermath of the Flora case.

So, Flora.

She’s a young girl who wants to be emancipated from her grandparents. They’re eating into the trust fund her dead mother created for her, and when Charlie hears all this, it resonates with her, and makes her determined to help Flora. 

From there, she does some investigating into her grandparents, in an effort to try and understand how to get Flora out of there… however, nothing is ever that simple, not even in a short story. What thrills me with this story is that Karin Slaughter has accomplished a satisfying OMG moment, which is only one amazing part of this short story, and more importantly to me, highlights the strengths of her characterisation. 

As introductions go, it’s an effective one into Charlie, into her past and where she now. It’s also insight into how her past affects her choices and her thinking with regards to her clients — which can be prove dangerous in her line of work. 

What do you think of short stories based on longer books? Should they be necessary to read to enjoy the longer book? Or should they be separate entirely?

18 Comments

  • Kelly says:

    Wow, to squeeze so much into such a short story. Most authors struggle and require an entire trilogy before reaching that point. I love a brilliant thrilled too Verushka and I love the novella idea before committing to an entire storyline. Unfortunately in young adult, the novellas are usually released after a series is finished which is great for fans, not so much for readers hesitant to commit to an entire series. I love the sound of this one though and really keen on grabbing a copy. Wonderful review! <3

    • Verushka says:

      Slaughter surprised me with the characterisation in this — often, like you said, short stories aren’t easy to do justice to, but the author accomplished this amazingly well. I’m impressed with her characterisation and how it influenced and let her accomplish a thrilling twist in the end. Also, you’re right re: novellas in YA. I didn’t even think of that!

  • Sounds like a great story and makes me want to read the bigger novel that is to follow. I’ve always enjoyed Karin Slaughter’s books though so I’m biased, haha.

  • I have never been one that gravitates to short stories. I do, however, see why someone might be interested in picking one up. Especially if there is an author or story that you might want a taste of before diving into a whole novel. Anthologies seem to be the only short stories that I tend to read these days. This one does sound like an interesting book and I simply love the cover!

    • Verushka says:

      I don’t usually do so either, but I was so curious about Slaughter, I thought I’d give it a go before committing to a whole book. Anthologies, I weirdly, find somewhat hit and miss. I think each story is too short to get into? But when they’re good, they’re GOOD!

  • I usually prefer a full novel to a short story because they almost always seem too rushed to me but it sounds like this one is done right.

    • Verushka says:

      I was surprised how much of a punch Slaughter packed into this. Just enough to let us get to know Charlie, and enough to get a taste of the twisty goodness we can look forward to!

  • Lily says:

    i love her writing, she is just such a great storyteller. Did not realize this one was short 😀 but it seems like she made it work

    • Verushka says:

      Count me in as loving her writing and that she’s a great story teller too. I was impressed with how much she packed into this.

  • I read Pretty Girls and year or so ago and really want to pick up more of her stuff eventually. I’m glad you enjoyed this short story and I guess it did the job if you want to read the book now.

  • I keep telling myself a KS book… And maybe this is the introduction I would need! It sounds GOOD!

    And I don’t think you should HAVE to read short stories like this in order to read the bigger book, but it’s nice if the short story could provide you with added insight or a few AhHA moments in the main book, if you know what I mean? Without giving spoilers and without being necessary. 🙂

    • Verushka says:

      It’s really good, Di! Impressive how much she’s packed into this, especially on the part of the villain. Told me she’s a writer of good, complicated plots, and characterisation is spot on! In regards to short stories, I agree, if the short story can provide added insight, I am all for it, but some I’ve seen are necessary to explain a larger book and it kind of irritated me. So yeah. Glad this wasn’t like that.

  • I just read a review for the full length book to this novella and I am quite intrigued! I didn’t know there was a story to go with it. I might have to try it before the full length one. I haven’t read one of her books yet but have been meaning to. Great review!

  • Short stories can be hit or miss for me, but I agree that sometimes they can be a great way to “taste test” an author to see if I’d want to go on and read a full length novel by them. I don’t mind short stories tied into longer novels, although I do think they should be able to stand well on their own as should the novels. Sometimes I think it’s a practice that is over done to feed fans and make more money on the publisher’s part.

    • Verushka says:

      I’ve started thinking about novellas as a great way to taste test an author, but a short story in an anthology can really be hit and miss for me. That isn’t enough to get to know characters, though that’s entirely dependent on the authors too. Generally, short stories or novella should complement larger novels for me, but not be necessary. at that point, yea, it does seem like a money making scheme and not much else.

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