Author Gregg Olsen writes mystery novels with the American Pacific Northwest as his location backdrop. I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, therefore have knowledge of and an interest in the area. In Olsen’s Lying Next to Me the Last Thing She Ever Did his setting is the Puget Sound region between Olympia and Seattle, Washington.
A young Seattle wife and mother who is an executive at Starbucks, disappears and then she is found murdered while vacationing with her family on the Sound. The family is staying in a shoreline vacation rental. Theirs is the middle old-fashioned cabin of three.
The occupants of the other two cabins see and hear nothing when the woman is snatched from a lawn chair overlooking the water. Her husband and daughter are close to shore in a boat, witnessing it all, but can’t reach the beach before she and her attacker disappear. The other witness is an elderly man walking his dog on the beach. He too is not close enough to offer help before the woman and her attacker disappear.
Nothing is as it seems. Unknown to many of those living in the area, is that the cabins were built in the 1920’s during prohibition and hold secrets from prohibition rum running days when liqueur was spirited from here to Seattle. Seeing is not believing in the witness accounts. Did the elderly man and the husband actually see the woman snatched while sitting outside watching her family on the water? This is a difficult police case to crack. There are many twists and turns before the ending that make Lying Next to Me the Last Thing She Ever Did an energizing mystery novel.
In The Last Thing She Ever Did, Olsen moves the novel’s setting to Central Oregon. Bend is a town three hours from Portland with views of Mount Bachelor, the Three Sisters and Mount Hood. Bend is known too for outdoor sports and in recent years has become popular for Silicon Valley transplants causing the community to emerge as a high-tech center.
Many of Bend’s Silicon transplants have come with new, big money to support a rich lifestyle. This divides them from Bend’s long-time residents whose incomes are closer to middle-class. Nonetheless, many old and new residents live side by side and try to forge friendships.
The three-year-old son of a couple, living on the river who are Silicon transplants disappears when his mother, who is watching him, looks away to take a phone call. What happened? Did Charlie fall into the river? Did a passerby take him? Day after day the questions continue, what happened to Charlie?
Divers search the river and a body is not found. Charlie’s parents closely look at one another. Their neighbors, born and raised in Bend, rush to comfort their new friends. Both couples begin to unravel as they look deeper into themselves and their marriages. But still, the foremost question, what happened to Charlie?
A 70-plus widower and retired doctor from Bend lives across the river from the missing boy’s luxury house. Dr. Miller watches the river with binoculars and often he witnesses his neighbor’s untidy lives. Does Dr. Miller know something about Charlie’s disappearance that could help solve the case? The police visit his home, but they don’t learn anything that helps their investigation.
Then Dr. Miller disappears, yet his car remains in his garage. Is Dr. Miller inside ill or injured? Twists and turns abound. Lives and marriages are tearing apart. Will Charlie be found alive? Will Dr. Miller be found well and alive? When this is over, will the parents of the missing boy want to stay in Bend or return to Silicon Valley where people live their lives with more distance between them? Throughout The Last Thing She Ever Did there are hints that Charlie is alive, but where? What about Dr. Miller? The mystery ending comes with an unexpected surprise.