Book Review / Reviews with Spoilers / Scott Shepherd

Scott Shepherd | The Last Commandment

The Book: 

The Last Commandment by Scott Shepherd
Published July 13th 2021 by Penzler Publishers
Guest review by Patrick Callan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Buy it on | Amazon

The Characters: 

Austin Grant: Commander at Scotland Yard, set to retire at the end of the year. But his last case ends up being a lot more than he expected

John Frankel: NYPD Detective who takes the lead of the Commandment Killer case on the NYC side.

Rachel Grant: Austin’s estranged daughter, who works in NYC as a reporter. She has refused to speak to Austin ever since the death of her mother, for reasons unknown to Austin

Everett Grant: Austin’s brother, a theologian who helps him make the initial connection between the killer’s victims

The Commandment Killer: the villain of the story, a killer who chooses his victims based on their transgression of one of the 10 Commandments

The Plot (from Goodreads):

Christmastime in London. When three seemingly unconnected victims are murdered with matching sequential Roman numerals carved into their foreheads, Metropolitan Police Commander Austin Grant finds his answer in one of the last places he’d expect: the Holy Bible. Each of the deaths correspond to a transgression of one of the Ten Commandments, and Grant must find the killer before the remaining Commandments are commemorated with homicides.

Unfortunately for Grant, the next victim with a number on their forehead turns up not in London, but across the pond at the iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, turning this English murder case into a transatlantic manhunt spanning two global metropolises, each with its own rich history and culture. Commander Grant must team up with a charming NYPD detective named John Frankel, as well as his own estranged daughter Rachel—a cunning investigative reporter with conflicting feelings about her father.

The Last Commandment is the third novel by acclaimed screenwriter and producer Scott Shepherd, whose decades of television writing experience shine through in the swift pace and character-driven storytelling of this devilishly fun, page-turning mystery. Flipping the “buddy cop” story on its head with a touch of Old Testament fatalism, this twisty tale leads from the seedy back-alleys of Piccadilly to the Grande Dame hotels of Midtown Manhattan and back again.

Click here for book spoilers for The Last Commandment
Book spoilers ahead–if you haven’t yet read The Last Commandment, I suggest you turn back now.

The Twist:

The Commandment Killer is actually Austin’s brother, Everett. Everett was in love with Allison, Austin’s deceased wife, and believed that Austin stole him from her, breaking the 10th Commandment “Thou Shall not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife”. Everett was also the man who assaulted Allison after her cancer diagnosis, leading to the rift between Austin and Rachel. Rachel had discovered that Allison had been attacked, but her mother would not disclose who did it. She also made Rachel promise not to tell Austin, because she knew that he would never rest until he discovered who did it, and that it would destroy him to know that it was his own brother. Due to this promise, Rachel cut herself off from her father, because she thought that it was the only way for her to keep it.

The Ending: 

When they discover the true identity of the killer, Austin and Frankel race to Everett’s ski house in Switzerland, where he has Rachel. Everett shoots Frankel, leaving him for dead while he brings Rachel and Austin up the mountain at gunpoint. He plans on killing Austin and leaving Rachel alive, so that she can suffer for the rest of her life, just as he feels he has suffered all of these years. Austin attempts to unnerve Everett, saying that Allison never loved him, and that he was the one who had broken the 10th Commandment, not Austin. Rachel chimes in, revealing to Austin that it was his own brother who assaulted his wife. Austin becomes enraged, and throws himself at his flustered brother. The two brothers get into a skirmish, but as Everett lunges at Austin with a knife, a gunshot rings out, and Everett drops to the ground, dead. Austin and Rachel turn to see Frankel with his service revolver. With the ordeal over, the three head down the mountain, reflecting on the events of the last several weeks. Austin then realizes that he is officially retired, and wonders what he will do next.

The Review: 

Pat is back for another guest review! Penzler Publishers was gracious enough to gift us this ARC of The Last Commandment, and Pat picked it up first so I asked him to write me a review when he was finished. I asked him some questions to point him in the direction of how I write my reviews. The following are his thoughts:

Plot pacing: The prologue starts off as a slow burn, as you are introduced to some of the characters, but it really takes off once Grant travels to NYC and meets Frankel. From that moment on, I couldn’t put the book down.

Page turner or slow burn? See above

Plot: I thought the plot was great, with multiple twists and turns that kept you guessing until the end. And due to the transatlantic nature of the case, both Grant and Frankel get their “fish out of water” moments, with humorous results.

Characters: Grant, Frankel, and Rachel are the three characters who receive the most attention, and they all shine in their own ways. Grant is exactly what you would expect from a Scotland Yard Commander who is towards the end of his career, dry British humor and all. Frankel likewise is the typical New York Detective, sarcastic and quick witted. The two play off each other extremely well, and I’m glad that the author didn’t go the usual “two cops don’t get along at first and slowly begin to respect each other as the case goes on” route. There is a mutual respect from the start, and although they come from different sides of the Atlantic, the two characters are very similar. Rachel is a great addition as well, giving the book a strong female presence to offset the two male characters. She plays off both men well, and the budding romance between her and Detective Frankel feels organic, especially as the two attempt to keep their affair a secret from her father. However, it is not as if she is just there to be a love interest. She plays an important role in the story, and is an integral part of the investigation.

Did you like the ending? I enjoyed the ending, and the author put enough red herrings into the story to keep you guessing who the killer was until the very end. 

Writing style: I thought the writing style was great. The dialogue between characters was fantastic, and the descriptions were incredibly detailed, so it was easy to imagine the gruesome ways in which the Commandment Killer murdered his victims. Shepard also did a great job showcasing the differences between the two cities in which the story takes place.

Would you read a sequel and/or more books by this author? I would definitely read a sequel or more books by this author, and I hope that he continues with these characters in some way.

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