The Last Exile by E V Seymour

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The Last Exile by E V Seymour

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Simon Regan
Reviewed by Simon Regan
Summary: E.V. Seymour's topical spy/crime thriller hurtles through a story of intrigue and betrayal at breakneck speed. Though not the most literary take on the genre, The Last Exile makes for entertaining summer reading whilst retaining a thoughtful edge.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: July 2008
Publisher: MIRA Books
ISBN: 978-0778302414

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Suspended from duty after shooting a suspected terrorist in a Birmingham shopping centre, firearms officer Paul Tallis finds himself stuck in a rut, living hand to mouth as a Birmingham security guard. Enter the mysterious Sonia Cavall, who claims to be working for the Home Office and approaches the initially distrustful Tallis with a lucrative mission; tracking down and identifying foreign nationals who have escaped deportation after serving jail sentences in Britain. After personal tragedy strikes, he is forced to re-evaluate Cavall's offer, but just what has Tallis gotten himself into, and who is he really working for? As Tallis makes a disturbing discovery about his employers' true motives, he realises the extent of the conspiracy brewing around him, which reaches to the very top levels of the British establishment.

Suffused with contemporary issues and with brooding political undertones, Seymour's debut novel strives for an edgy, urban tone, which it carries well. Tallis' mission brings him into contact with any number of modern bogeymen; illegal immigration, people trafficking, extreme right wing groups and the surveillance state. But if Seymour's topicality is The Last Exile's greatest strength, it can also work against it – the book's references to TV programmes and other pop culture ephemera set it very firmly in the here and now; perhaps too firmly, as some of these references already feel a little dated.

The Last Exile is likely to seem quite familiar to anyone interested in the spy/crime thriller – whether familiarity breeds contempt, or simply provides an elegantly blank backdrop against which Seymour's more original elements stand out, will depend on your personal taste. Although the book's general narrative arc is well-trodden, Seymour takes pains to disguise the twists and turns of the plot, with the result that one is unlikely to be able to predict upcoming revelations (and with the nature of Tallis' personal connection to the conspiracy a particular shock). Indeed, sometimes one finds oneself wishing The Last Exile were a little more forthcoming when dropping hints; when a particularly crucial twist rests on a throwaway line delivers 300 pages previously, it is easy to get left behind.

As one might expect given the author's collaboration with no less than three constabularies to ensure the accuracy of the book, The Last Exile's attention to detail is exemplary, feeling at times like a police procedural. This precision carries over to Seymour's descriptions, which are suitably rich and help to ground her protagonist in a living, breathing world. Dialogue in The Last Exile is generally credible, but there are points when the novel's exchanges seem somewhat stilted. Similarly problematic are the author's attempts at rendering dialectal variants, which smack somewhat of ethnic stereotypes – of course, the reader's response to such will vary based on individual sensitivities.

For a crime/espionage thriller, The Last Exile isn't as action-heavy as one might expect. That's not to say there isn't violence or gunplay – both feature numerous times throughout the book – but the handling of these events is for the most part more subdued than other examples of the genre, focusing more on the emotional cost of violence than its physical consequences. Some may feel underwhelmed by this approach, whilst others will appreciate Seymour's more restrained, realistic style.

Throughout, The Last Exile retains a thoughtful edge – whilst not the most literary offering in its field, it nevertheless provides a more sensitive and emotionally mature experience than the average action novel. A word of caution however: Seymour isn't ashamed of her political opinions, and those who disagree with her views on immigration, national sovereignty and gun control may find their positions caricatured almost to the point of being strawmen. Certainly there is no attempt in The Last Exile to set up a genuine debate on these issues, which may infuriate some.

Overall, Seymour's The Last Exile makes for entertaining summer reading, hurtling its way through a well-paced story of betrayal and intrigue at breakneck speed. If you can tolerate some minor niggles on the way, you'll definitely find it a rewarding experience.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy Paper Butterfly by Diane Wei Liang and Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell.

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