THE LAST MAN

Charles Kenney, Author . Ballantine $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-449-00588-0

Everyone seems to be haunted by the past in this competently written but overly schematic thriller. In a Boston doctor's office, Greta Wahljak stares at an old man named Schiller and recognizes him as Friedrich Schillinghausen, the last man still alive out of 10 Nazi officials who were photographed in 1943 at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. She approaches the U.S. Attorney's office, unaware that assistant U.S. Attorney David Keegan is dating Schiller's daughter, Diane. Moreover, Keegan has his own mystery to unravel: the events surrounding the car crash in 1954 that killed his mother and spared his abusive policeman father. The demands of advancing two parallel plot lines force Kenney (The Son of John Devlin) to shortchange each of them, and the result is two plots that keep hitting melodramatic high points instead of one story told in dramatic depth. Credibility vanishes when Theo Dunbar, Keegan's rival at the U.S. Attorney's office, feeds the Schiller story to the Globe and then blames the leaks on Keegan, a falsehood that their boss doesn't question. Readers will recognize the implausibility of the situation; after recusing himself from the Schiller case, why would Keegan leak stories to the press that would damage the father of the woman he loves? Retroactive evidence indicates that the boss was just playing along in order to sting Dunbar in the act, but the annoying gap between real-life common sense and narrative contrivance remains. In the end, like a TV movie that flirts with originality and finally descends into predictability, Kenney reveals the hidden and smoothes over the disturbing, neglecting his characters for the requirements of his overelaborate double plot. (July 3)

Reviewed on: 05/21/2001
Release date: 07/01/2001
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-345-48234-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 352 pages - 978-0-345-44180-5
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