In Kill You Last, Shelby's comfortable existence has just ended. Her father, who runs a photography and modeling business, has been connected to three missing teenage girls, and the evidence pointing toward his guilt just continues to pour in. She's also started to receive threatening emails from a person who promises vengeance for her father's actions. When it seems like everyone has already decided her father is guilty, Shelby decides to do a little investigating of her own.
I quite enjoyed the first two books in Strasser's "Thrillogy," but I think the shine has worn off a bit for me. This go around, I was much less forgiving of the thin characterization and somewhat juvenile writing style. The little snippet he gave the reader at the beginning - present in all the books - was also a little tiresome this time. The reason for that is that this prologue isn't actually any new material: it's simply an excerpt from a later portion of the book with a few bits edited out to avoid spoilers. When I reached the part of the book the prologue had been taken from, I felt cheated rather than illumined. As a hook, it falls short.
All that said, the mystery itself is quite good. Strasser is excellent at dangling several possibilities before the reader, making them all equally plausible, and then making the big reveal at the end seem as if it should have been obvious all along. And despite the lackluster writing, this book is a surefire page-turner. I even read it in the car, something I almost always avoid due to motion sickness, because I wanted - needed - to know whodunnit.
I also have to give Strasser credit for not pulling his punches. Shelby starts out steadfast in her defense of her father, but she slowly grows to realize that he is a lot worse than she knew. In fact, he's a downright dirty creep, and as Shelby learns more, her picture of him just deteriorates. I appreciated that Strasser made her father this creepy guy who is perhaps innocent of murder, but certainly not innocent of other awful things. In too many stories, the end of the book tidily resolves the parental issues to show that it was all a misunderstanding or the person isn't as bad as they seemed. Not so here. Shelby's father isn't the only one, either - her other friends, family, and acquaintances have dirty secrets too, even if they may not be murderous.
In all three books, Strasser writes from a female point of view. I'm always curious to see how male writers do this (and how female writers do a male point of view). Due to the almost complete lack of character development, though, I can't really judge how well Strasser succeeded in capturing the female voice. This is especially apparent in the last chapter, when Strasser quickly wraps up the story in what might as well have been a series of bullet points describing what happened to each character. It's a prime example of the kind of telling, rather than showing, that is used to develop character - and pretty ineffectively. It's a flaw for sure, but if you're a fan of this type of story, it won't prevent you from enjoying it.