‘The Last to Disappear’ by Jo Spain

Author : Jo Spain
Title : The Last to Disappear
Pages : 400
Publisher : Quercus
Publication date : May 12, 2022


When young London professional Alex Evans is informed that his sister’s body has been pulled from an icy lake in Northern Lapland, he assumes his irresponsible sister accidentally drowned. He travels to the wealthy winter resort where Vicky worked as a tour-guide and meets Agatha Koskinen, the detective in charge. Agatha is a no-nonsense single mother of three who already thinks there’s more to Vicky’s case than meets the eye.

As the two form an unlikely alliance, Alex also begins to suspect the small town where his sister lived and died is harbouring secrets. It’s not long before he learns that three other women have gone missing from the area in the past and that his sister may have left him a message.

On the surface, Koppe, Lapland is a winter wonderland. But in this remote, frozen place, death seems only ever a heartbeat away.


Jo Spain is such a powerhouse in the psychological thriller genre that whenever she publishes a new book I don’t even have to think twice about picking it up. However, I have to admit that the first half of The Last to Disappear proved somewhat of a struggle for me.

Alex’s sister, Vicki, is found dead in a frozen lake in Lapland. Alex travels to the small town where his sister lived and worked, and teams up with detective Agatha Koskinen to find out what happened to his sister. Vicki wasn’t the first person to go missing in this town but at least her body was discovered, whereas what happened to the other three women remains a mystery. As is always the case, many of the residents in this small and isolated town hide a multitude of secrets. But is there a serial killer among them? Or is the killer a tourist, who is now long gone?

Some of the chapters take us back to 1998, where we meet Kaya. She’s a young woman who has found herself in a loveless marriage and is trapped in a life she never even wanted. But what does her story have to do with the rest of the story and what happened to her? I thoroughly enjoyed finding out and Kaya is for sure a character you root for from the moment you meet her.

So, Jo Spain goes scandi-noir. I feel she definitely succeeded in pulling off that particular sense of atmospheric isolation that the books in that genre seem to do so well. I could almost feel the cold deep down in my bones and imagine the struggle of making my way through all that snow and quite possible getting utterly lost. But on the other hand, I fail to see the need for an author like her to jump on this whole “isolated, claustrophobic, covered in snow and ice location” bandwagon. It’s popular, I get it. It’s also, in my most humble opinion, always achieved best by the Scandinavian authors themselves. And in Jo Spain’s case, I feel she comes across as way more authentic when her stories are set in Ireland.

It took me quite a long time to get into The Last to Disappear. The scene has to be set so you get a sense of time and place, I get it. The characters have to be introduced, some slightly more likeable than others. However, for the longest time it felt as if very little of consequence was happening and the story wasn’t really moving forward. I never considered giving up because this is Jo Spain after all and ultimately it isn’t her fault.

Perseverance paid off in the end, though. When the various threads of the story came together and the fate of these women became apparent, I was most definitely glad I stuck with it. There are some things I feel I should have worked out on my own, but I didn’t. I liked Agatha’s backstory and how it came together with the general storyline, especially because I failed to see the relevance. Actually, I thought Agatha as a whole was a fantastic character and a refreshing take on a detective/chief of police. No cliches here.

So, I had a little bit of a wobble with The Last to Disappear but I blame my reading mood. Slow-burners and I are currently apparently not getting on. However, I do love Jo Spain’s writing and the plot, while moving slowly, is remarkably well done. Like I said, I enjoyed the atmosphere and there are a ton of secrets to discover. The Last to Disappear has a little bit of everything : psychological thriller, police procedural, mystery … Best of all, it all makes sense in the end. None of those twists that come out of the blue and barely ever make sense, none of that “yeah, right” rolling of the eyes, none of that suspending belief crap … and that in itself is a huge bonus. And as always, it is definitely making me look forward to reading more from Jo Spain.

The Last to Disappear will be published on Thursday, May 12th.

My thanks to Quercus for the advanced review copy, which I received via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

  11 comments for “‘The Last to Disappear’ by Jo Spain

  1. May 9, 2022 at 9:40 am

    Excellent review Eva. I hope to read Last to Disappear this week, though your comment that you could feel the cold seeping into your bones makes me a little reluctant. I hate the cold!🥶

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 11, 2022 at 9:30 am

      Oh boy, me too! We’ve had some lovely summer-y weather and I hope it continues for a good while yet. Hope your autumn/winter isn’t too cold!


      • May 12, 2022 at 9:47 am

        -2°C this morning 🥶 which was a bit of a shock! But at least it’s fine. It’s the cold, wet and foggy weather I hate,

        Liked by 2 people

  2. May 9, 2022 at 1:24 pm

    Just downloaded this from NetGalley so 🤞🏼🤞🏼

    Liked by 1 person

  3. May 10, 2022 at 12:26 am

    Hmm, despite your mild grumpiness with some aspects, this one sounds rather appealing to me. Would I like it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • May 11, 2022 at 9:29 am

      Gah, I don’t know! You’re awfully unpredictable lately (😉) and I don’t know if this has one* of the eleventy billion* things you don’t like! But I’m going to be brave* and say yes, you will*.

      * or more
      * slight exaggeration
      * think I just had a “wee accident”
      * have sacrificed to the altar of the powers that be to make it so

      Liked by 1 person

      • May 12, 2022 at 9:57 pm

        😂 I shall add it to my list, then, and hold you responsible if it all goes horribly wrong…

        Liked by 2 people

  4. May 12, 2022 at 12:57 am

    In a way I’m kind of glad I was refused a copy after being invited for the blog blast first… Slowburners and me don’t get along right now either. xD Fab review! xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • May 12, 2022 at 11:30 am

      Weird, right? They don’t normally bother me. Probably would have abandoned it if it hadn’t been Jo. Glad I didn’t though!

      Liked by 1 person

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