The Last Word
By: Taylor Adams
Narrators: Carlotta Brentan,
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 04/25/2023
My Rating: 5 Stars ++ (ARC)
After posting a negative book review, a woman living in a remote location begins to wonder if the author is a little touchy—or very, very dangerous—in this pulse-pounding novel of psychological suspense and terror from the critically acclaimed author of No Exit and Hairpin Bridge.
Emma Carpenter lives in isolation with her golden retriever Laika, house-sitting an old beachfront home on the rainy Washington coast. Her only human contact is her enigmatic old neighbor, Deek, and (via text) the house’s owner, Jules.
One day, she reads a poorly written—but gruesome—horror novel by the author H. G. Kane, and posts a one-star review that drags her into an online argument with none other than the author himself. Soon after, disturbing incidents start to occur at night. To Emma, this can’t just be a coincidence. It was strange enough for this author to bicker with her online about a lousy review; could he be stalking her, too?
As Emma digs into Kane’s life and work, she learns he has published sixteen other novels, all similarly sadistic tales of stalking and murder. But who is he? How did he find her? And what else is he capable of?
The Last Word releases April 25, 2023, in hardcover, e-book, audio/MP3, and large print.
About the Author
Taylor Adams graduated from Eastern Washington University with the Excellence in Screenwriting Award and the Edmund G. Yarwood Award. He is the author of several acclaimed thrillers, including HAIRPIN BRIDGE and NO EXIT. NO EXIT has been published in 32 languages and was recently adapted by 20th Century Studios as a Hulu Original Film. Adams lives in Washington State. WEBSITE
NOTE FROM TAYLOR:
I’m beyond thrilled to see THE LAST WORD hit shelves next Tuesday, April 25. I had so much fun writing this crazy, twisty story of a woman living in isolation with her trusty golden retriever, who one day reads a lousy book and rates it one star online… only to face the wrath of its truly unhinged author. The weeks around the launch of a new title are always a little nerve-wracking, but it’s been such a wonderful experience to see the positive early buzz and pre-pub reviews. Thank you, everyone, for your support and readership, and I really hope you enjoy it!
Standout Books. Elevator Talk.
INTRIGUING QUESTIONS. INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW.
BEHIND THE BOOK AND THE AUTHOR
Q&A With Bestselling author
Welcome to April 2023 #AuthorElevatorSeries —where we go behind the scenes of the book and the author. We are super excited to have joining us a favorite — the bestselling author Taylor Adams with his fifth novel, the highly anticipated —THE LAST WORD! My Top 5 Thriller List for 2023! If you loved NO EXIT and HAIRPIN BRIDGE, you will devour THE LAST WORD. A must-read for all booklovers.
WELCOME, TAYLOR. Let's dive in!
BEHIND THE BOOK
Q. Give us your best ELEVATOR PITCH for THE LAST WORD.
TAYLOR: A reader posts a one-star review of a book… and incurs the wrath of its unhinged author.
Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Your favorite character to write, and/or most challenging?
TAYLOR: I had a lot of fun writing Emma’s English Cream golden retriever Laika – since she’s based closely on my real-life golden retriever (also named Laika). I’d written my dog into the story’s first draft as a placeholder and planned to create a fictional dog for Emma later, but found I really liked Laika’s presence in the story. Of course, this meant Laika was always going to survive the story unscathed!
Q. WRITING: Do you have a favorite chapter or scene in the novel you enjoyed writing the most?
TAYLOR: The story is a bit of a Russian nesting doll, and I had a lot of fun with the final 50 pages in particular. Although Emma’s scuffle with the author is full of blood and action, the story’s climax is different – more a verbal chess game over who will have the last word. I like to think of this as a story of a reader “trapped in a shitty horror novel” (you can interpret that as ‘meta’ as you’d like!) and by the climax, Emma has grown to dominate the scenario and her enemy. Her true battle is (and always has been) internal, and she must finally face it. At the risk of spoilers, I also had entirely too much fun writing the antagonist’s ultimate downfall in something as mundane as a phone transcript (ha!).
Q. NOVELS: You just keep getting better and surprising us. Tell us a little about your journey.
TAYLOR: I certainly have a “type” of story I like to tell (isolated setting, short timeframe, unprepared protagonist, etc.) and if I’m not careful I might start repeating myself. I’ve tried to base each novel on an emotional core that really speaks to me – NO EXIT is about doing the right thing, HAIRPIN BRIDGE is an examination of grief, and THE LAST WORD is about isolation as both refuge and danger. Who doesn’t want to live alone on a beach with their dog sometimes? But in cutting ourselves off from things that hurt us, we can also unwittingly cut out the best parts of our lives.
Taylor, I love Goldens too and miss my Golden Duke every day. The best 15 years! I think he had nine lives and was once featured as a hero dog on the front page of the local paper.
Now, let's go behind the author, with Taylor. (see below)
BEHIND THE AUTHOR
Dog (golden retrievers, especially).
FAVORITE SONG OR ARTIST?
‘Destroyer,’ Of Monsters and Men
FAVORITE TV SERIES?
MOST MEMORABLE PLACE YOU HAVE TRAVELED TO?
Rio Secreto, a gorgeous underground river/cave system just outside of Cancun, Mexico. The cave spiders are the size of my hand!
YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO WRITE?
At home on a couch, with my feet up, with coffee.
WHICH DO YOU ENJOY WRITING MORE: DIALOGUE OR INTERNAL THOUGHTS? Dialogue, definitely. It’s so fun to write banter!
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN?
THE LAST WORD makes five!
NAME SOMETHING YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE VERY GOOD AT.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE (OR LOVE STORY)?
GREEN ROOM (2015)
INTROVERT OR EXTROVERT?
YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
Morning, with 2-3 cups of coffee.
THE LAST BOOK YOU RAVED ABOUT?
THE PALLBEARERS CLUB, by Paul Tremblay
ONE BIT OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE AN INSPIRING AUTHOR?
Write every day. Don’t wait for inspiration. Just carve out the time and do it.
WHAT ARE EARLIER JOBS YOU HAD BEFORE BECOMING AN AUTHOR?
Chinese Food Cook in a Safeway deli, Master Control Operator at a local TV station.
1994 Honda Accord, with a cassette player and hand-crank windows. Served me faithfully until 2021!
BEST PART OF BEING AN AUTHOR?
Getting to imagine things for money.
GO TO A PARTY OR A QUIET EVENING AT HOME?
Quiet evening at home, please!
ONE OF THE EVILEST CHARACTERS FROM YOUR BOOK?
I think when all sins are examined, NO EXIT’s Ashley Garver is still the ‘most evil’ of my villains.
YOUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER?
My parents, definitely.
THE FUNNIEST ONE-STAR REVIEW YOU HAVE EVER RECEIVED AND THE NAME OF THE BOOK?
I remember someone once one-starred NO EXIT because halfway through, one of the villains’ backstories briefly mentioned killing a cat many years ago. Instant one-star!
THANK YOU, Taylor, for spending time with us today!
Praise for The Last Word
“An outstanding psychological thriller…As the tension rises, spectacular plot twists open up new possibilities while effectively demolishing existing expectations. Along with the nail-biting suspense, the book provides some genuine fun by treating readers to overwrought excerpts from an unpublished manuscript about the crimes that take place at Strand Beach. Adams remains a writer to watch.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Unnerving… knives are out, as well as swords and stun guns, in this breathlessly paced, head-spinning tale”
——Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Adams’ plotting is relentless, making The Last Word one of the scariest mysteries of the year.”
“[An] imaginative and thoroughly original plot… Adams’ modern-day Gothic effectively blends horror and thriller and is guaranteed to keep readers off-balance with its intensity and overall creepiness.”
“A white-knuckle, read-in-a-sitting thrill ride. In The Last Word, Taylor Adams ratchets up the tension to an unbearable pitch—then keeps going. Thriller fans, take note: You need to read this book!”
— Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of The House Across the Lake
“Adams does a phenomenal job of using classic horror tropes to poke fun at the way some authors write…This is another fast-paced, action packed thriller with fantastic writing and a badass final girl. You can’t count anyone out, and even when you think you know where the story is going, Adams throws in one more twist. I recommend this book to people who love a terrifying thriller with humor sprinkled in to cut the tension.”
— Mystery and Suspense Magazine
Praise for Taylor Adams
“Moves at about 150 miles per hour. . . . A novel that’s part action flick and part affecting rumination on moral responsibility within families.”
— Washington Post on Hairpin Bridge
“Hairpin Bridge reads like a Stephen King novel and is especially reminiscent of Misery in how the characters shape-shift as the narrative progresses, leaving the reader wondering who is more dangerous—and more importantly, which one will prevail.”
“The carefully layered drawing-room psychology of Agatha Christie cross-pollinated with the pure squishy terror of Stephen King. . . . [Taylor Adams] nails his setup and builds some truly distinctive characters.”
— Entertainment Weekly on No Exit
“There’s a cinematic propulsion to No Exit that commands the reader’s attention, and Mr. Adams times his shocks with a sure hand.”
— Wall Street Journal
“What a box of tricks! This full-throttle thriller, dark and driving, rivals Agatha Christie for sheer ingenuity and James Patterson for flat-out speed. Swift, sharp, and relentless.”
— A. J. Finn, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Window, on No Exit
"A shot of adrenaline straight to the heart! Propulsive and unpredictable, Hairpin Bridge will have you on edge from the first page to the last."
— Riley Sager, New York Times bestselling author of Home Before Dark on HAIRPIN BRIDGE
THIS IS WHAT YOU CALL A POWERHOUSE THRILLER!
☑Checks ALL the boxes for me. 📢 Top 3 Thrillers of 2023! THE LAST WORD is a must-read for every author and book lover.
Bestselling author, Taylor Adams, returns following Hairpin Bridge and No Exit (5 stars) with a knockout adrenaline-fueled psychological thriller like no other— THE LAST WORD. Best thriller I have read all year. Currently at #125, and it is not the end of April yet.
Who will get the last word in this uber twisty riveting cat-and-mouse game when a book reviewer rates a book with a one-star review, and the unhinged author seeks revenge?
Emma Carpenter, a school teacher, is house-sitting (3 months), cutting off all social media at a remote Strand Beach, Washington, location. It is just Emma and her golden retriever, Laika. A storm is coming (more than the weather). Isolation: winter and the snow is harsh.
Emma spends time walking her dog on the beach and binge-reading self-published 99-cent thrillers on her e-reader she downloads from Amazon.
She reads one based on her neighbor's recommendation (as a joke), Murder Mountain, by H.G. Kane, with the subtitle: The Scariest Book You'll Ever Read.
When finishing, the website asks for a review. Emma would like to give it a zero, but not an option, so she selects 1 STAR with a brief review. It will be the first and only review. Will the author read it? She presses SEND. It posts.
Then two hours later, she gets a reply from the author asking her to take down her review. Then he demands it or else. Kane's messages become menacing and eviler each time she refuses.
She tells herself not to respond, but this email gets more sinister each time. She is stubborn and will not remove the rating even though he demands it. He does not scare her.
She was not reading for pleasure but to escape. Someone is in her house. Standing in her bedroom.
However, very little frightens her since the worst thing happened to her months ago, but she fears what she becomes when she's alone and where her mind will go if she lets it. She has a backpack full of rocks waiting to see what she will do with it. Something has gone down in her life, but readers do not get the details until much later. Emma may discover she wants to survive, and boy she has to fight.
Anything is better than being alone with her thoughts. Or so she thinks until her life turns into a nightmare of HORROR.
Until now, the only people Emma communicates with since she arrived are the retired author neighbor, Deek, through a telescope and a whiteboard, and texting the owner, Jules Phelps from Portland, owner of the house she meets only once when she shows up. Other than him, there is no one else close by. The neighbor writes on the chalkboard his name is Deek. He seems pretty smart with his word games.
Reg flag: H.G. Kane has no author photo. No Facebook. No IG or Twitter. His website domain seems to have expired. The only evidence that this digital ghost exists is from where she started on Amazon and the self-written stupid bio—a Gmail address. Gag, Emma thinks.
After digging into the crazy author's work, she discovers sixteen other gruesome and horror tales of murder. Are these books purely fiction? Or will Emma be in his next novel as the victim?
His most popular book, Murder Lake, has an average of two and a half stars. Murder Valley - one and a half stars, and on it goes. The victims never seem to win. His newest one she reviewed and read now has some good reviews, probably posted by his mom.
This guy is creepy and scary and ultimately shows up at her door. A total madman. Maybe she can get help through the telescope from the neighbor for help. Maybe since he was a famous author, he could lure the guy away from him and talk him down before he kills her. She has no gun or weapon.
However, can she trust him? Jaw-dropping surprises! Who is the prey, and who is the predator? It is a full-on battle with no power and no help. Emma must gather the strength to fight for her life and her dog.
A powerhouse author and a powerhouse book! With one clever plot twist after another, and just when you think you have it figured out, BAM, another twist. Multi-layered, action-packed, full of tension and suspense, blended with dark humor, you will be rooting for Emma and Laika to the satisfying conclusion. I am a huge Golden fan (I miss my Golden Duke with 15 glorious years).
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! So good. It hooked me from the first page to the Epilogue. A book within a book. Oh, also an unreliable narrator. I do not want to say too much due to spoilers, but man, this is twisty and scary; thinking this could happen in real life!
From obsession, revenge, stalking, horror, mystery, suspense, crime, literary, and psychological. Genre-bending!
INTERVIEW: Taylor is one of my favorite authors. I cannot wait for my #AuthorElevatorSeries #AuthorElevatorSeries Q&A with Taylor, where we go behind the scenes of the book and this amazing author on pub day! I loved NO EXIT, but trust me; THE LAST WORD is just as good or even better!
I will read anything Taylor writes! Cannot wait to see what comes next.
Many thanks to #WilliamMorrow for a hardcover copy and #NetGalley for an eARC for review and interview purposes. I also purchased the audiobook and cannot wait to listen to the narrators: Carlotta Brentan and Jim Meskimeno. No Exit was one of my favorite audiobooks.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: April 25, 2023
My Rating 5 🌟STARS +++
Top Books of 2023
April 2023 Must-Read Books
PS One a Side Note: AMAZON REVIEWING
No, I cannot put this on Amazon, as they would never publish my review, so adding it here.
Amazon: (Well, that is awesome that Emma's 1-star review on Amazon was posted that quickly). My experience with Amazon: publishing my reviews takes up to a month or longer, so they are never on pub date even though I read well in advance. They send me a reject email about 3-5 times or more, saying it did not comply but no reason why.
At the date of this review, 4/24/23, I have on Amazon (according to my public profile)— 50,000+ views on my book reviews, 5,751 helpful votes, and have posted 1,974 reviews. I was in the top 1K reviewers on Amazon worldwide until about a year ago, when they denied my reviews.
I probably have several hundred Amazon has not published, but my same review gets posted on B&N, NetGalley, Goodreads, my blog, etc. B&N is pretty strict. They always post my reviews in a timely manner. I like it because you can also post before the book comes out on B&N. I recently started posting there, so I have less than 300 reviews but helpful votes. Will continue to add there.
I never use foul language or ever slam the author or book. My reviews comply with all guidelines. I posted some in January and reposted numerous times, and they still are not published.
I follow all guidelines, but they do not like my images. Oh, during the middle of writing this review, I just received another reject email from Amazon of one I submitted more than three times. Nothing wrong with it, which forces me to forward it to Community, asking why and nothing wrong with it, following all guidelines with no reply, of course, and then resubmitting it numerous times. It may or may not finally post with no changes. So I never changed it, but finally, they get posted without notifying me, but I see it on my profile.
I write pretty much all four and 5-star reviews and post images I designed with purchased stock photography. Very seldom do I post a 3-star review, and never below this. BTW, they make me remove my logo from my images so that people could steal my design. So I have to design two for every review. However, B&N allows it. They always post all my reviews submitted. Amazon also does not like me putting a blurb on the image either. So it depends on what person views it.
Many times I get up to ten review rejections in one day. I guess they like the 1-star reviews or reviews that slam the author and the book (which I see often), not someone who takes the time to write a thoughtful review, a high rating, actually reads the book, and takes the time to design a graphic.
So if you are an author and wonder why my reviews are posted everywhere but on Amazon, this is why. I reported Community to Amazon, which took forever, and they got better for a while and sent them all through, and a few months later, back at it again. Also, NetGalley is aware of the problem.
So, way to go, EMMA! (unfortunately, it is like this in real life). 1 Star reviews get posted. 5 stars not so quick and they make you work for it.