The Last Witness

January 13, 2017 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , , )

witnessThe Last Witness by K.J. Parker


The Last Witness is the next in a series of novellas I have to read, though I can’t remember what, specifically, made me interested in it. I’m sure it was an article or tweet or something, but I can’t recall what it was. I’m glad it piqued my interest, though, as the story is a good one.

The main premise is that the narrator is a man who can take people’s memories from them. It’s a nifty talent, especially for those who have something they need to hide, and he gets involved with a man and his son, who have important things for him to cover up. They’re so important that he’s unwillingly coerced into becoming a part of their schemes. It’s a gritty sort of story, a fantasy hardboiled mystery, noir to the core.

The story is compelling, even if it doesn’t have one of those grab-you-by-the-throat beginnings that are part and parcel of those read. It pulls you in slowly until you find yourself unwilling to part from it. It’s told in the first person, so our narrator reveals what he knows about his life, or at least as much as he can.

The Last Witness touches on themes of truth and memory, and how the latter defines the former, so of course at one point in the story he questions what he knows about his own life. It has a philosophical angle, too, as he realizes that history is only a memory written down, and that if you can change a memory, you can change history before it happens. It’s a running theme throughout the story, since we have a character who has that power in his own hands.

There’s a flighty aspect to the narrative that doesn’t surprise me, since I discovered that the author is a pseudonym for Tom Holt, and I’ve read one of his books. It was a lighter, comedic fare, which is evident here, despite the book having a heavy theme and a depressing outlook. The style isn’t detrimental, but it does belie the subject matter within. Also, Parker has some clever turns of phrase that made my chuckle, like the narrator describing someone else “looked at me as if I were a spelling mistake” (even though he used that particular phrase twice), which is indicative of his other works.

I enjoyed the story, for its entertainment value and for what it has to say. It gets a little tedious toward the end, making it less than perfect, but I think the rest of the story makes up for it. It’s a solid read, with an urban fantasy flair to it that I think would appeal to a lot of readers.

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