Johnny Merrimon is juggling too many things: searching for his kidnapped sister, Alyssa; trying to care for his once-beautiful mother, Katherine, who is strung out on booze and pills; and being the man of the house, since his father went missing after his sister's disappearance. And he's only a 13-year-old junior high school student.
Johnny's obsession with his sister drives the plot in The Last Child and connects its various threads as he fights to keep the search alive. Johnny is sometimes helped, but more often let down by various father figures like Clyde Hunt, the local detective who has nightmares a year after he failed to find Alyssa, and the wealthy Ken Holloway, who is exploiting Johnny's mother.
After a second girl goes missing, the whole town becomes involved in looking for the missing children, and the investigation uncovers crimes that network throughout the community, revealing some very nasty secrets. John Hart evocatively captures the small-town traits of a close-knit, caring, and neighborly society that is also claustrophobic and oppressive, doubly so in this Southern setting where lives have been intertwined for generations. Hart successfully explores this environment and skillfully transports the reader into the mind of his teenaged protagonist without lapsing into sentimentality or dumbing down the complexities and interactions of the plot. Edgar-winning author John Hart has written another exciting thriller of social depth, with intriguing characters and a thoroughly wrenching ending.