Die Last: The comfort of returning to the Max Wolfe series

Die Last Book review

What is this about?: A lorry truck filled with women frozen to death in the back is found in Chinatown and Max and his team are called in to investigate.

What else is this about?: Max and the two women — no three — in his life: his boss, Whitestone, his partner Edie, with whom he is falling in love with and Scout, his young daughter. This has always been a character focused series, and it remains as such.

Stars: 4.5/5

Blurb: 12 DEAD GIRLS

As dawn breaks on a snowy February morning, a refrigerated lorry is found parked in the heart of London’s Chinatown. Inside, twelve women, apparently illegal immigrants, are dead from hypothermia.

13 PASSPORTS

But in the cab of the abandoned death truck, DC Max Wolfe of West End Central finds thirteen passports.

WHERE IS SHE?

The hunt for the missing woman will take Max Wolfe into the dark heart of the world of human smuggling, mass migration and 21st-century slave markets, as he is forced to ask the question that haunts our time.

What would you do for a home?

Tony Parsons is the type of writer that makes every word count, makes me feel every emotion ten times more than usual, and then you throw in Colin Mace as a narrator, and I’m kind of addicted to this series in audiobook.

In Die Last, Parsons tackles human trafficking, the kind where lorries are filled with desperate men and women to cross borders and to get into the UK. A lorry filled with 12 dead women, and 13 passports sets Max and his team on the trail of human traffickers in London and the only survivor of that trip.

One of the things that keeps me going with this series is that Parsons is able to elevate what is a straightforward story into a something emotional because he makes me care about everyone, not just Max.

He is able to balance the procedural and the emotional with such finesse, it’s only after the book is over that I realised how devastated I am at the losses in it — main characters are how I care about secondary characters. If they like them, I like them; if they hate a character, I’ll hate them (or maybe secretly love them anyway). It’s one thing to use your main character to make readers care about someone else, but it’s entirely another to make a reader care about the secondary character on his own.

I swear that made sense in my head.

Parsons plotting is wonderfully detailed in this one, revisiting characters from previous instalments, but I don’t think you’ll miss anything if you start with this one. There are new characters that I didn’t expect to sympathise with, even as they’re sitting in jail confessing to crimes and wanting nothing more than to ensure their families are safe.

Even though I have read all four books of this series, and I should be used to Parsons’ writing, the end of this title was not what I was expecting by any means: the various plot threads come together so seamlessly, and I cannot stress enough how many threads Parsons had going with this story, from London to refugee camps, and then Chinatown, and back again — and yet they all come together in a neat and completely and utterly unexpected bow. 

The other reason I keep going with this series

Characterisation. 

Max is a cop, a single father bringing up his daughter Scout, and building a home with Stan and Scout as best he can. While previous instalments featured their relationships strongly, I think this time Parsons is letting Max move on — or I hope — and admitting how much he cares so much for his colleague Edie. Naturally, the book ends just as he knocks on her door, so I’ll have to wait until the next one to see what happens.

(I’m half convinced that won’t work out because he also seems to have more in common with his boss, who is nothing like Edie, but their relationship is drawn out better in some ways. Even if they are yelling at each other)

I will admit Max has stalled for a bit on the personal front, though Scout and his relationship with her has been a priority. But, here’s what’s weird: normally, I can take or leave a romance in a book like this. But Parsons has made me want this for Max, made me want him to find someone with whom he can build a home because in this book and this series — family is everything. 

Whether it’s the people who leave their families behind to try for a better life, or the criminals who embrace their family’s history or Edie who is trying to do her best for her grandmother who has dementia and needs to stay in a home. It’s a powerful theme wrapped up in a procedural, which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

It’s strange how these books always leave be contemplative. Among his other talents as a writer, Parsons manages to turn  a procedural into a thoughtful exploration of the different themes, like (single) father and daughters in earlier books and families in this one. 

6 Comments

  • This does sound very character focused, and that’s wonderful how the author is able to make you so emotional and care about everyone! I haven’t even read this series, and even *I* want this romance for Max now just from reading your review! Lol.

  • As much as I love procedurals, you’re absolutely right: without compelling characters, they’re just not as good as they could be. Typically I prefer my MCs to be women, but I’m pleased to hear that there are so many women central to Max and the story. It sounds like this series is one that I should be picking up!

  • Between the procedural and being so character driven, this sounds like one I would really enjoy as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on it! I hadn’t seen it before now. ☺

  • Kelly says:

    Human trafficking is an issue I find quite uncomfortable so it’s always a challenge to read. The best books typically do challenge us as readers. I love how character driven the series is and that Max is also surrounded by strong females, rather than the hero, damsel in distress trope. Brilliant review Verushka, so glad you’re loving the series and looking forward to nabbing a copy myself <3

  • “Tony Parsons is the type of writer that makes every word count”

    That’s what I like to hear! This looks like an excellent book.

  • Why have I not read this series? It sounds wonderful and I love that it has such a strong focus on the characters even though it sounds on the surface like it should have only a procedural feel to it.

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