Anita Shreve, who has long since cornered the market with her finely written romantic thrillers, has proved herself a true mistress of the genre with her latest novel, The Last Time They Met. Since her 1994 debut with novels such as Eden Close and Where or When, Ms Shreve has come a long way, skilfully blending both historical and more up-to-date story-lines into her novels alongside recurrent themes that transcend time and place: love, loss and death. Long-time Shreve fans and newcomers alike will find The Last Time They Met a gripping read but it is also rather unusual as it features, as one of its two main protagonists, a minor character from a previous novel, The Weight of Water, and attempts to explain how and why he becomes the man he is. This is rather fascinating and if you've read the original novel in which Thomas, the alcoholic poet, features, you'll recognise him and feel immediately drawn to him. And if you haven't, by the end of this book, you'll want to read more.
The Last Time They Met is based on a tale of childhood sweethearts and a theme Shreve writes about so passionately and with such conviction one can't help wonder if she spends her nights dreaming of her first love. Ambitiously, she tells her tale of Thomas and his lover (Linda) from the present backwards, travelling from a poet's convention in Toronto via politically repressive Nairobi to Massachusetts and small-town 1960s' schooldays. The grand passions, the loveless marriages, abuse, lost children and, most heart-wrenchingly, the utterly wasted lives unfold majestically and with intense pathos. If the greatest test of a good book is not just that you can't put it down, but that it haunts your memory for far longer than it takes to read, then this is a cracking read with an end that will leave you reeling. --Carey Green