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The Last Book by Zoran Zivkovic
Cover Artist: Luis Rodriguez
Review by Gayle Surrette
PS Publishing Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 978-1906301194
Date: April 2008 List Price $30.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: PS Publishing / Show Official Info /

The first death due to natural causes at the Papyrus Bookstore seems a terribly sad event, but one that will more than likely never reoccur. The second death is viewed as a horrible coincidence. However, after the third death in three days there's no denying that something is going on. Inspector Dejan Lukić and Vera Gavrilovic, co-owner of the bookstore, are determined to find the truth. But this case is not as simple as the involvement of officers of National Security make plain. Can they solve the case before more people die.

There's always been stories of dangerous books, books that could kill or drive the reader crazy. In the stories of Harry Potter the library has a restricted section and some books are chained to the shelves. In Eco's The Name of the Rose, monks were killed as they read one of the books in the stacks. Then there's Lovecraft's Necronomicon which can drive the reader insane (and is very tricksey in its incarnation in the Evil Dead films. In The Last Book Zoran Zivkovic gives a nod to these historic dangerous books and then gives a bit of a tweak to the tale.

Inspector Dejan Lukić has been called to a death at the Papyrus Bookstore. He arrives along with the coroner, Dr. Dimitryević. Lukic starts by questioning Vera Gavrilovic the co-owner of the bookstore, but once the doctor declares the death to be of natural causes everyone breathes a sigh of relief. But when the next patron of the bookstore is found dead, the doctor and the Inspector begin to take a second look at the store. Vera and Dejan discuss the possibility of a literary crime such as that in The Name of the Rose. The doctor agrees and begins to test for poisons and other chemicals that might be the cause of death, but leave no trace.

The second death also provides Lukić more than adequate reason to spend time with Miss Gavrilovic. They share a liking for tea and an interest in literature as well as an interest in the idiosyncrasies of people. Gavrilovic describes some of the more colorful characters who frequent the bookstore; unfortunately two of these individuals were victims of the mysterious deaths. As time passes and two more patrons of the bookstore fall victim – Gavrilovic and Lukic find themselves of interest to the crimes division of National Security Agency and Lukić is under pressure from his superior to solve the case.

As the story moves on, Lukić is convinced that he's the victim of deja lu -- the feeling that you are speaking sentences from a book you've read. He's also having some vivid and horrific dreams. As the story continues, things seem to become even more surreal and fragmented.

Zivković has indeed given the reader a convoluted, complex, and absorbing mystery with all the elements of the classic mystery. Since the story is from Lukić's point of view, we know what he knows and how he feels about the other characters. But, as the reader, we're free to reinterpret his observations to fit the facts as we've learned them. No matter how you interpret what has happened and what you believe will happen, you'll find yourself pulled deeper and deeper into the mystery. What is killing these readers? What is happening to the book they were reading? Is it a re-enactment of The Name of the Rose? If not, then what is going on?

Always the story, morphs, changes, moves the characters about, plays with our expectations, and finally reveals the answers in such a way that you're not sure you should believe your eyes.

A book that is a really challenge to the imagination of a reader.

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