This is the story of Meredith, a middle aged single woman who currently works as the manager of a gift shop for a beautiful stately home. This isn't the whole story of Meredith's life, and from very early on in the book you get a picture of the woman she was before, and the fact that she is nursing a very big secret, one from a time long before, and the real reason she is now living such a sedate life. After hearing from a name from her past, Meredith is sent into a kind of panic, one which drips with foreboding and the promise, for the reader, that her idyllic life is about to take a very sinister turn.
Although this book has a very different feel to The Old You, the sense of mystery and suspense still oozes from every page, and from the very beginning I was completely intrigued by Meredith and her story, desperate to know just what she was hiding and why someone appeared to be targeting her in a campaign which could only be designed to completely unnerve her. Far from the reltaive spinster she had become, Meredith used to be a top rock star, on the verge of a major deal when she dropped from the limelight, but as to why ... Well it takes us a while to get to the full story, and even though it is obvious something happened, it is not until quite far into the book that the full extent of her past is revealed, and in quite shocking, gut wrenching style.
Louise Voss has a real talent for putting the reader in the heart of the action, creating believable settings that you can almost see, smell and touch. This is just as true with The Last Stage, and whether the scene was set in Meredith's cottage, the old Ice House within the estate grounds, or her brother. Pete's, barge, I had a very clear picture in my mind of where the characters were at all time. Speaking of characters, this is one of Ms Voss's greatest achievements and she manages to create such varied, relatable, if not always likeable characters. They are the ones that bring you into the story and that is essential in this book as without a character you become invested in, it would be far easier to walk away than it actually is.
For me, Meredith is one such character who is beautifully flawed and multi faceted. If we take present day Meredith, she is quite calm, perhaps a little repressed (with good reason) and whilst not necessarily the most exciting character, I did like her and I wanted to know why she was being stalked. However, some of the chapters that interspersed the main action, were set in Meredith's past, detailing the journey she went on from naive, if somewhat bolshy schoolgirl, to rock chick. That was a Meredith that I wasn't so fond of. Perhaps you could say she was blinded by love, that was certainly true, but she certainly didn't make it easy to like her. Not that this justifies the events that ultimately ended her career before it really began, nor did it make it less shocking, and those scenes are quite hard to read.
This book explores a number of key themes - young love, betrayal and revenge - and how far people are willing to move beyond the line of morality for the person they love. From murder to stalking, and from family to the potentially devastating effects of obsession, the is an underlying sense of threat which is woven through the whole book, sometimes overt and sometimes implied, but which keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to the tension filled, highly dramatic conclusion. Another cracking read, and fans of the author will be left very satisfied.