STARRED REVIEW
June 06, 2017

Big complications after murder in a small town

By Rosecrans Baldwin

Arriving just in time for summer, Rosecrans Baldwin’s new novel, The Last Kid Left, is set in a New England beach town, where the bucolic, sea-swept terrain is smote by a double murder allegedly committed by a teenager, whose girlfriend’s foray into digital, private pornography ends up going viral. Indeed, readers best beware that Baldwin’s dark and brooding narrative is by no means a light and breezy “beach read,” and on the contrary, requires an appreciation for a murder mystery/love story in which the plot is inhabited solely by a cast of antiheroes, both male and female, who are not always easy to love.

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Arriving just in time for summer, Rosecrans Baldwin’s new novel, The Last Kid Left, is set in a New England beach town, where the bucolic, sea-swept terrain is smote by a double murder allegedly committed by a teenager, whose girlfriend’s foray into digital, private pornography ends up going viral. Indeed, readers best beware that Baldwin’s dark and brooding narrative is by no means a light and breezy “beach read,” and on the contrary, requires an appreciation for a murder mystery/love story in which the plot is inhabited solely by a cast of antiheroes, both male and female, who are not always easy to love.

Inspired by a true 1930s crime in New England and imbued with vestiges of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter—one of Baldwin’s favorite works—The Last Kid Left begins when a car, driven by 19-year-old Nick Toussaint Jr., crashes into a kitschy sculpture of a cowgirl, prompting police to discover the teen has two bodies in the trunk: a prominent town doctor and his wife. Nick is charged with the murders, thrusting his already fragile 16-year-old girlfriend, Emily Portis, into a media maelstrom fueled by a hungry pack of journalists, one of whom realizes her reluctant return to her hometown of Claymore is entirely serendipitous. Meanwhile, a recently retired veteran police officer, the beleaguered recovering alcoholic Martin, finds himself drawn to the case at precisely the moment his toxic second marriage implodes. As Baldwin writes: “The clock reads four. In less than twenty-four hours the department will throw him a retirement party. Going by previous nights out, everyone will get drunk, sing his praises, wake up the next morning, and hop in a radio car and resume routine. Everyone except him.”

When Martin meets Nick’s mother, Suzanne, a fellow alcoholic who has not yet hopped aboard the recovery wagon, their shared obsession with proving the troubled teen’s innocence sparks a relationship that proves redemptive for both of them.

Without spoiling the ending of this finely wrought thriller, Baldwin’s novel steers clear of tidy endings, remaining faithful to delivering a story that ebbs and flows with the messiness of real life.

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The Last Kid Left

The Last Kid Left

By Rosecrans Baldwin
FSG/MCD
ISBN 9780374298562

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