I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Point Last Seen by Christina Dodd
Series: Last Seen in Gothic #1
Published by HQN Books on July 26, 2022
Genres: Fiction / Mystery & Detective / Amateur Sleuth, Fiction / Small Town & Rural, Fiction / Thrillers / Psychological, Fiction / Thrillers / Suspense
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"When it comes to nerve-shredding, edge-of-your-seat suspense, Dodd consistently delivers the goods...Point Last Seen is a gobsmackingly great read."—Booklist STARRED REVIEW
Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Karin Slaughter and Sandra Brown, New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd’s all-new thriller, POINT LAST SEEN, will have readers keeping the lights on all night.br>
LIFE LAST SEEN
When you’ve already died, there should be nothing left to fear… When Adam Ramsdell pulls Elle’s half-frozen body from the surf on a lonely California beach, she has no memory of what her full name is and how she got those bruises ringing her throat.
GIRL LAST SEEN
Elle finds refuge in Adam’s home on the edge of Gothic, a remote village located between the steep lonely mountains and the raging Pacific Ocean. As flashes of her memory return, Elle faces a terrible truth—buried in her mind lurks a secret so dark it could get her killed.
POINT LAST SEEN
Everyone in Gothic seems to hide a dark past. Even Adam knows more than he will admit. Until Elle can unravel the truth, she doesn’t know who to trust, when to run and who else might be hurt when the killer who stalks her nightmares appears to finish what he started…
"No one does high-stakes, high-voltage suspense quite like Dodd."
—Booklist (starred review)
I just love a great romantic suspense full of fantastic characters where the danger ramps up throughout the book. Christina Dodd’s POINT LAST SEEN fits that bill and then some. Check out the excerpt below and stick around at the end for my review of this excellent book.
A Morning in February
The storm off the Pacific had been brutal, a relentless night of cold rain and shrieking wind. Adam Ramsdell had spent the hours working, welding and polishing a tall, heavy, massive piece of sculpture, not hearing the wailing voices that lamented their own passing, not shuddering when he caught sight of his own face in the polished stainless steel. He sweated as he moved swiftly to capture the image he saw in his mind, a clawed monster rising from the deep: beautiful, deadly, dangerous.
And as always, when dawn broke, the storm moved on and he stepped away, he realized he had failed.
Impatient, he shoved the trolley that held the sculpture toward the wall. One of claws swiped his bare chest and proved to him he’d done one thing right: razor-sharp, it opened a long, thin gash in his skin. Blood oozed to the surface. He used his toe to lock the wheels on the trolley, securing the sculpture in case of the occasional California earth tremor.
Then with the swift efficiency of someone who had dealt with minor wounds, his own and others’, he found a clean towel and stanched the flow. Going into the tiny bathroom, he washed the site and used superglue to close the gash. The cut wasn’t deep; it would hold.
He tied on his running shoes and stepped outside into the short, bent, wet grass that covered his acreage. The rosemary hedge that grew at the edge of his front porch released its woody scent. The newly washed sunlight had burned away the fog, and Adam started running uphill toward town, determined to get breakfast, then come home to bed. Now that the sculpture was done and the storm had passed, he needed the bliss of oblivion, the moments of peace sleep could give him.
Yet every year as the Ides of March and the anniversary of his failure approached, nightmares tracked through his sleep and followed him into the light. They were never the same but always a variation on a theme: he had failed, and in two separate incidents, people had died…
The route was all uphill; nevertheless, each step was swift and precise. The sodden grasses bent beneath his running shoes. He never slipped; a man could die from a single slip. He’d always known that, but now, five years later, he knew it in ways he could never forget.
As he ran, he shed the weariness of a long night of cutting, grinding, hammering, polishing. He reached the asphalt and he lengthened his stride, increased his pace.
He ran past the cemetery where a woman knelt to take a chalk etching of a crumbling headstone, past the Gothic Museum run by local historian Freya Goodnight.
The Gothic General Store stood on the outside of the lowest curve of the road. Today the parking lot was empty, the rockers were unoccupied, and the store’s sixteen-year-old clerk lounged in the open door. “How you doing, Mr. Ramsdell?” she called.
He lifted his hand. “Hi, Tamalyn.”
Somehow, on the basis of him waving and remembering her name, she had fallen in love with him. He reminded himself that the dearth of male teens in the area left him little competition, but he could feel her watching him as he ran past the tiny hair salon where Daphne was cutting a local rancher’s hair in the outdoor barber chair.
His body urged him to slow to a walk, but he deliberately pushed himself.
Every time he took a turn, he looked up at Widow’s Peak, the rocky ridge that overshadowed the town, and the Tower, the edifice built by the Swedish silent-film star who in the early 1930s had bought land and created the town to her specifications.
At last he saw his destination, the Live Oak, a four-star restaurant in a one-star town. The three-story building stood at the corner of the highest hairpin turn and housed the eatery and three exclusive suites available for rent.
When Adam arrived he was gasping, sweating, holding his side. Since his return from the Amazon basin, he had never completely recovered his stamina.
At the corner of the building, he turned to look out at the view.
The vista was magnificent: spring-green slopes, wave-battered sea stacks, the ocean’s endless surges, and the horizon that stretched to eternity. During the Gothic jeep tour, Freya always told the tourists that from this point, if a person tripped and fell, that person could tumble all the way to the beach. Which was an exaggeration. Mostly.
Adam used the small towel hooked into his waistband to wipe the sweat off his face. Then disquiet began its slow crawl up his spine.
Someone had him under observation.
He glanced up the grassy hill toward the olive grove and stared. A glint, like someone stood in the trees’ shadows watching with binoculars. Watching him.
No. Not him. A peregrine falcon glided through the shredded clouds, and seagulls cawed and circled. Birders came from all over the word to view the richness of the Big Sur aviary life. As he watched, the glint disappeared. Perhaps the birder had spotted a tufted puffin. Adam felt an uncomfortable amount of relief in that: it showed a level of paranoia to imagine someone was watching him, but…
But. He had learned never to ignore his instincts. The hard way, of course.
He stepped into the restaurant doorway, and from across the restaurant he heard the loud snap of the continental waiter’s fingers and saw the properly suited Ludwig point at a small, isolated table in the back corner. Adam’s usual table.
Before Adam took a second step, he made an inventory of all possible entrances and exits, counted the number of occupants and assessed them as possible threats, and evaluated any available weapons. An old habit, it gave him peace of mind.
Three exits: front door, door to kitchen, door to the upper suites.
Mr. Kulshan sat by the windows, as was his wont. He liked the sun, and he lived to people-watch. Why not? He was in his midnineties. What else had he to do?
In the conference room, behind an open door, reserved for a business breakfast, was a long table with places set for twenty people.
A young couple, tourists by the look of them, held hands on the table and smiled into each other’s eyes.
Nice. Really nice to know young love still existed.
There, her back against the opposite wall, was an actress. Obviously an actress. She had possibly arrived for breakfast, or to stay in one of the suites. Celebrities visits happened often enough that most of the town was blasé, although the occasional scuffle with the paparazzi did lend interest to the village’s tranquil days.
She wasn’t pretty. Her face was too angular, her mouth too wide, her chin too determined. She was reading through a stack of papers and using a marker to highlight and a ballpoint to make notes… And she wore glasses. Not casual I need a little visual assistance glasses. These were Coke-bottle bottoms set in lime-green frames.
Interesting: Why had an actress not had laser surgery? Not that it mattered. Behind those glasses her brown eyes sparked with life, interest and humor, although he didn’t understand how someone could convey all that while never looking up. She had shampoo-commercial hair—long, dark, wavy, shining—and when she caught it in her hand and shoved it over one shoulder, he felt his breath catch.
A gravelly voice interrupted a moment that had gone on too long and revealed too clearly how Adam’s isolation had affected him. “Hey, you. Boy! Come here.” Mr. Kulshan beckoned. Mr. Kulshan, who had once been tall, sturdy and handsome. Then the jaws of old age had seized him, gnawed him down to a bent-shouldered, skinny old man.
Adam lifted a finger to Ludwig, indicating breakfast would have to wait.
Ludwig glowered. Maybe his name was suggestive, but the man looked like Ludwig van Beethoven: rough, wild, wavy hair, dark brooding eyes under bushy eyebrows, pouty lips, cleft in the chin. He seldom talked and never smiled. Most people were afraid of him.
Adam was not. He walked to Mr. Kulshan’s table and took a seat opposite the old man. “What can I do for you, sir?”
“Don’t call me sir. I told you, call me K.H.”
Adam didn’t call people by their first names. That encouraged friendliness.
“If you can’t do that, call me Kulshan.” With his fork, the old guy stabbed a lump of breaded something and handed it to Adam. “What do you think this is?”
Adam had traveled the world, learned to eat what was offered, so he took the fork, sniffed the lump and nibbled a corner. “I believe it’s fried sweetbread.”
Mr. Kulshan made a gagging noise. “My grandmother made us eat sweetbread.” He bit it off the end of the fork. “This isn’t as awful as hers.” With loathing, he said, “This is Frenchie food.”
“Señor Alfonso is Spanish.”
Mr. Kulshan ignored Adam for all he was worth. “Next thing you know, this Alfonso will be scraping snails off the sidewalk and calling it escargots.”
“Actually…” Adam caught the twinkle in Mr. Kulshan’s eyes and stood. “Fine. Pull my chain. I’m going to have breakfast.”
Mr. Kulshan caught his wrist. “Have you heard what Caltrans is doing about the washout?” He referred to the California Department of Transportation and their attempts to repair the Pacific Coast Highway and open it to traffic.
“Nothing!” Mr. Kulshan cackled wildly, then nodded at the actress. “The girl. Isn’t she something? Built like a brick shithouse.”
Interested, Adam settled back into the chair. “Who is she?”
“Don’t you ever read People magazine? That’s Clarice Burbage. She’s set to star in the modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s…um…one of Shakespeare’s plays. Who cares? She’ll play a king. Or something. That’s the script she’s reading.”
Clarice looked up as if she’d heard them—which she had, because Mr. Kulshan wore hearing aids that didn’t work well enough to compensate for his hearing loss—and smiled and nodded genially.
Mr. Kulshan grinned at her. “Hi, Clarice. Loved you in Inferno!”
“Thank you, K.H.” She projected her voice so he could hear her.
Mr. Kulshan shot Adam a triumphant look that clearly said See? Clarice Burbage calls me by my first name.
The actress-distraction was why the two men were surprised when the door opened and a middle-aged, handsome, casually dressed woman with cropped red hair walked in.
Mr. Kulshan made a sound of disgust. “Her.”
Excerpted from Point Last Seen by Christina Dodd. Copyright © 2022 by Christina Dodd. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
Point Last Seen is the first novel that I’ve read of Christina Dodd’s, and it certainly won’t be the last! Set in the fictional small town of Gothic, which is based on Big Sur on the California coastline, this novel was quite the ride. Gothic is a quaint, unique little community full of quirky characters and even quirkier businesses. While the population seems to be as nosy as the citizens were in the tiny midwestern town that I grew up in, they all seem to have their heart in the right place.
Adam Ramsdell is the town loaner, content to make his art out of metal that washes up on the shore as he tries to forget his heartbreaking, tumultuous past. But everyone in town sees this survivalist as the fill-in law enforcement since the nearest police are 30 minutes away, so while everyone loves him and calls him a friend, he’s just not interested in saying the same thing about any of them. When the local fortune teller foresees that Adam will find a lost soul at the beach, he balks at the idea–until he finds himself at the isolated stretch of beach near his home after a storm raged through the area. He finds a woman seemingly dead on the beach, and when he hoists her over his shoulder to get her out of the water she expels ocean water and suddenly breathes again. The woman has no idea of who she is other than named Elle, and Adam immediately sees handprints around her neck and knows that something nefarious has occurred.
While Adam takes care of Elle and helps her heal, it’s not without the help of several townsfolk. The local psychic Madame Rune, who just so happened to be a psychiatrist in her previous career, takes an immediate liking to Elle and wants to help her recovery her memories. This book had a lot of side characters who shined just like main characters, and I’m really excited to see them again in future books. Elle senses that she can trust Adam, and as she comes out of her shell and remembers more of her past, sparks fly between the two of them.
But when someone shoots into Madame Rune’s reading room during a session with Elle and Adam, who was the intended target? With a festival set to start in a few days and attract many people to the town, just who is behind the attack and a body that was found in a field? Adam keeps to himself, but is respectful and kind to all he meets. He has no interest in forming any kinds of attachments in Gothic, but his personality and his need to help Elle have him coming around to just how much he needs some of the citizens of this small town in his life since they have his back no matter what. Elle is spunky, smart, and brave even it the grips of her amnesia, but her warmth and love of life are infectious as she easily makes friends with everyone in town.
I give POINT LAST SEEN a 4.5 out of five. The town of Gothic really was the star of this show, with it’s quirky characters and picturesque coastal scenery. Adam and Elle were fantastic characters that changed and grew over the course of the book, along with several of the secondary characters that were more prominent in the book. While some of the events were a bit unbelievable, everything was so fun that I just enjoyed the ride. The writing was fantastic with great flow and urgency toward the end. I can’t wait to see what Christina Dodd cooks up for Gothic next.
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About Christina Dodd
New York Times bestselling author Christina Dodd writes “edge-of-the-seat suspense” (Iris Johansen) with “brilliantly etched characters, polished writing, and unexpected flashes of sharp humor that are pure Dodd” (ALA Booklist). Her fifty-eight books have been called “scary, sexy, and smartly written” by Booklist and, much to her mother’s delight, Dodd was once a clue in the Los Angeles Times crossword puzzle. Enter Christina’s worlds and join her mailing list at www.christinadodd.com.
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