The Last Mile is a mystery novel by David Baldacci. The novel follows Melvin Mars, who was once one of America’s most promising football stars on death row, falsely convicted of the murder of his parents. When he is about to be executed by lethal injection, a man who is also on death row for various crimes,confesses to the murders of Mars’s parents. Amos Decker, newly appointed special agent with the FBI hears of the new case surrounding Melvin Mars, and immediately takes an interest. Soon, Amos discovers that there are facts about the case which don’t add up, and as the investigation deepens, Decker and his team uncover layer upon layer of lies and deception which are rooted at a time in American history which most would rather forget, but some seem keen to remember.
The writing techniques in this book are very interesting, because the writer uses short sentences, and small hints to leave the reader in cliff hanger suspense.Short sentences can be very powerful, because they are often very blunt, and get the point across quite well while still providing a sequence of mystery because they often need elaboration, which prompts the reader to read on. The writer also uses these short sentences to create classic cliffhanger endings to chapters. Often with a small piece of information revealed, or an idea the character expresses possession of, but not the context of their thought. These techniques make this novel a great read, and impossible to put down.
Mental illness plays a part in this novel, as one of the main protagonists (Melvin Mars) is held in solitary confinement before his execution. He speaks of the human need of social interaction, and how one of the key elements in mental health is interaction with other humans. During his time in solitary confinement Mars talks about how he could feel the solidarity taking a toll of his mental health, so he clung to memories of an ex girlfriend to keep him same. He filled the space with mental images of her, so much so that when the guards came to take him to his execution he saw an image of her in their place when they opened the door.
Another instance when the mental state of a character played an interesting part in the story is when three of the main protagonists in the novel are meeting in a private airplane. The most unruly character points out a lack of action of the other two towards their cause. Their cause being keeping America ‘pure’, fighting against integration, and rights for the gay community. They speak of things they have done in the past to actively oppose these movements, such as protests and bombings, acting almost like a terrorist group. This man cales the other two cowards, and accuses them of looking after their own interests. The two men respond saying that they would like to continue fighting for their cause but times are changing, and these movements are becoming more and more accepted, and to keep face in public, and be accepted by the social system, they have to ack as though they accepted them as well. This is interesting for two reasons, the first is that it shows the human need to be accepted by society. The need for approval and acceptance has long been apart of the human psyche, and this need can even prompt one to go against their values and beliefs. The second reason is that it shows that humans have a strange need for perfection, and fear of change, so much though that they are willing to take lives and suppress other humans in order to maintain what they deem the norm.
In conclusion this is a very complex book that explores human emotion, and what the human mind can be subject to. It is a great read, although not for everyone. Some may find it to dark or disturbing, but for those who enjoy complex/darker novels and/or mysteries I would highly recommend it. It is full of suspense and impossible to put down. Although it may not be for everyone I believe that young adult audiences will find this a very enjoyable and rewarding read.