The Last Murder at the End of the World by Stuart Turton

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

Blending elements of mystery, science, psychology and a world threatened by approaching doom, Stuart Turton has produced a near masterpiece of thriller writing.

The planet has been overcome by a lethal fog harbouring clouds of voracious insects and the only remaining life is a settlement of 122 people and three scientists inhabiting an idyllic island.  They live in peaceful harmony until disaster looms and promises to destroy it all in 92 hours. The security system has been disrupted and the fog approaches.

There is a brutal murder of one of the ‘elders’, Niema, and Amory the leading character must solve the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice within the ever-shrinking time frame.

Abi is the narrator, an ever present, god-like, character. She has the ability to know others’ thoughts and her insight both aids and complicates the murder investigation.  The villagers’, or ‘crums’, minds are controlled but happily pursue daily tasks contributing to a productive and successful community. Only Emory is continually questioning.  This attribute suggests she is the ideal choice to investigate Niema’s murder made increasingly challenging because their memories of the night in question have been erased.

This is one of the most intriguing devices of the crumbs plot – the collective amnesia of possible suspects. Stuart Turton shows a remarkable skill in his cleverly handling the twists and turns this hurdle creates.

Fascinating too is the idea that a plant growing on the island produces a liquid, conidia, which gives Abi access to another’s thoughts. A few hundred drops do this and a thousand gives control over the subject.

The island haven is a beautiful place, rich in plant and animal life and free of the pollution of the world now destroyed. That it is possible that this last vestige of life on earth may vanish into the fog adds to the pressure on Amory to save not just the people, but the island too.

All the characters are clearly drawn, from Thea the scientist obsessed by her work and seemingly ruthless, to Hephaestus, Niema’s son, hot blooded, powerful, and impulsive.

Probably the most attractive invention of the author’s imagination is the memory gem, a small stone that contains all the memories of an individual’s life. Once they have died, those who care can access these memories and relive those times. Very thought provoking.

This novel is a highly original concept, combining genres; psychological, scientific and mystery which Turton has done to create a book that is gripping and stimulating. These differing aspects mean that even the reader, like myself, who is not a lover of science fiction will find it compelling.

At intervals we’re reminded of the time slipping away which adds to the pressure to uncover the guilty party. Like a spotlight, suspicion points to a likely candidate, but this is often dismissed, then alters, so tension mounts.

This is the first Stuart Turton book I have read but now wish to read other works. They have been highly praised and awarded. This latest novel is especially significant given that many are deeply concerned about the fate of our planet and whether it is destined to be destroyed by the extremes of climate.

The Last Murder at the End of the World


by Stuart Turton

Raven Books

ISBN 978 139949 303 1

$32.99; 403pp


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