Format: Paperback, 336pp
Pub. Date: March 2004
Publisher: Ballantine Books, Inc
Now is a time of rejoicing. Nichelle Tramble has finally released her much anticipated second novel, The Last King: A Maceo Redfield novel. I have been waiting on The Last King for a few years now, ever since I read Tramble's debut novel, The Dying Ground. The wait has well been worth it for The Last King is one incredible novel. Maceo and the whole Redfield family, the mystery, the pacing of the story; all of the elements of an extraordinary book are here and Tramble has the talent and skill to pull it all together.
Upon hearing the news that his boyhood friend Holly is being investigated by the police for the murder of a prostitute, Maceo Redfield has returned to his hometown of Oakland, California to help his friend and face the mess he made, and ran away from, at the end of The Dying Ground. Maceo's homecoming is not all sugar kisses and hugs. On his pursuit of the real killer, Maceo must reconnect with his family, his past and his present self.
I LOVED The Last King! I was caught up in the novel and did not care. Tramble was not content to coast on the laurels of her last novel. This novel displays Tramble's maturity as an author. The Last King is solid book, a tightly woven mystery with fascinating and engaging characters that moved as smoothly as waves of rippling velvet. The novel is gritty, charming and easily one of the best books of the year.
Tramble took the characters that I knew and loved from The Dying Ground and developed them further. Maceo is finally becoming the man he's going to be. His evolution into manhood was painful to watch at times but on point throughout. Tramble showed the Redfield family reaction to Maceo's homecoming just enough to make me more interested in them and their future as well.
The Last King is more the standard, hard boiled detective murder mystery than The Dying Ground. There's a murder to solve, a detective bound to find the killer no matter the emotional or physical toil he has to endure in his pursuit, and finally a killer who don't want to be found. Maceo assumes the role of detective nicely. Because of The Dying Ground, Tramble gave a wonderful introduction to Maceo. I know Maceo and had become emotional invested in the character. It was easier for me to care about what happens to him. For when the mystery has been solved, in my mind, it is the detective, his personality that keeps me reading the book. Maceo is that kind of detective.
Tramble crafted a good mystery. I can't complain. She had me stumped for a brief minute, and I do mean a minute. I spent the last ’ of the novel shouting the name of the murderer and calling Maceo stupid for not getting the culprit quick enough. As with all mysteries, it's not identifying the murderer that really blows winds in my sails, it's the protagonist search for the truth that makes the books enjoyable to me.
If you have visited my discussion board during and after my reading of The Dying Ground, you already know how I feel about Maceo's grandfather Daddy Al, especially after the final conversation he and Maceo had at the end of The Dying Ground. I dislike the man. I believe that Daddy Al is not the strong, benevolent, heart-of-gold grandfather to Maceo that he liked to portray. I detected a nugget of darkness or harshness about the man. I have to admit that while Maceo is the star of the show, Daddy Al is just as captivating. Daddy Al has a grand presence, to say that I was looking forward to the confrontation between Daddy Al and Maceo is a putting it mildly. When I started reading the book, I was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. A situation like the anticipated confrontation is pregnant with all sorts of dramatic possibilities. It's a wonder spit was not drooling from the corner of my mouth when I finally reached Maceo and Daddy Al's meeting. Tramble handled the confrontation like a seasoned pro. The confrontation had just enough tension, emotion, pain and truth to make it satisfying.
The Last King was a sheer joy to read. I really couldn't ask for more. Well’maybe one thing, for the next Maceo Redfield novel to be at least 500-600 pages thick. Sometimes reading a book, such as The Last King, in one day has its disadvantages.