The Last Good Man by Thomas McMullan reviewed

The Last Good Man Book Cover The Last Good Man
Thomas McMullan
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ)
November 12, 2020

Duncan Peck has travelled alone to Dartmoor in search of his cousin. He has come from the city, where the fires are always burning.

In his cousin’s village, Peck finds a place with tea rooms and barley fields, a church and a schoolhouse. Out here, the people live an honest life – and if there’s any trouble, they have a way to settle it. They sit in the shadow of a vast wall, inscribed with strange messages. Anyone can write on the wall, anonymously, about their neighbours, about any wrongdoing that might hurt the community. Then comes the reckoning.

The stranger from the city causes a stir. He has not been there long before the village wakes up to the most unspeakable accusation; sentences daubed on the wall that will detonate the darkest of secrets.

A troubling, uncanny book about fear and atonement, responsibility and justice, and the violence of writing in public spaces, The Last Good Man dares to ask: what hope can we place in words once extinction is in the air?

The Last Good Man by Thomas McMullan

In a post apocalyptic world Duncan Peck walks from the city to Dartmoor to find his cousin. He finds him in an apparently ideal village still with a tea room, church and school house. There is also a large wall. Anyone can write on this wall and express their feelings about fellow residents as well as post announcements and the like. Any accusations of wrong doing may have real consequences and Peck’s cousin is the person who deals with it. This still appears better than the city to Peck but is he right?

So starts one of the more unusual books I’ve read this year. The Last Good Man follows Peck’s time in the village which looks stranger as time goes by – it is an odd place in an odd world. This isolated community is as interesting as it is atmospheric. For me – and I am a lover of it – Dartmoor is a good setting and well caught by the writing. The characters come over well enough and particularly Peck.

I’ve read a few post apocalyptic books over the years. Some have been excellent, some rather silly and some ok. This one defies those categories quite happily! I found this both unsettling and hard to put down. Indeed as it went on it became even more like that. This is a dark story and not just because of the setting. I kept wanting to look behind the façade to see who – if anyone – was pulling the strings. Or indeed to see if there were any strings or is this simply human nature? For some reason “Lord of the Flies” seems to come to mind rather than, for example, “The Road”.

I have to confess I am not sure I understood everything that happened. I am not really sure how much I enjoyed it. However I am certainly glad I read The Last Good Man.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review