The Last Passenger (2023) Book Review – A compulsive page turning thriller

Will Dean’s latest is a compulsive page turning thriller

The Last Passenger is one of those books that’s going to divide audiences between those who love and those who loathe this. The premise itself is intriguing and there’s no denying that this is a proper beach read thriller. It’s a compulsive page-turner, there’s a million twists, and it’s armed with sharp, snappy chapters to keep you intrigued.

The trouble is, the book struggles to sustain interest across its lengthy 446 page length, and there’s no denying that this could very easily have been dropped to around 290 pages tops and not lost very much in terms of context.

The plot is simple and adds in layers of intrigue and plenty of game-changing twists across the 130+ chapters. To give much away about the story would be a disservice but as a simple summary, we follow Caroline (Caz) who hopes to start the vacation of a lifetime with her partner, Pete.

As they step onboard the cruise liner, the RMS Atlantica, everything seems to be going swimmingly… until Caz goes to bed. When she awakens, she finds herself alone onboard this ship bound for New York. There’s no crew or passengers, and as the pages turn, things become a whole lot more complicated and wild.

It’s difficult to go into this review and not say much about the plot but suffice to say that a few twists here really don’t work (including one very near the end), and others that really do. The explanation to the overarching mystery is pretty sound though, and most of the big plot points are wrapped up by the end, but it’s also one heck of a mission to get there.

Each chapter clocks in at around 5 minutes tops, and at times this actually works as a bit of a hindrance to the plot. One could actually draw some comparisons to the way R.L. Stine used to write the Goosebumps books (a cliffhanger ending to a chapter midway through a tense sequence) but in The Last Passenger it doesn’t quite work so well. In fact, having three or four chapters split across one action sequence almost counteracts the idea, derailing some of the tension. In fact, at times you find yourself craving a much longer chapter that never arrives.

A lot of time is also dedicated to Caz’s history, told through flashbacks from her point of view, but a lot of this feels like filler. While the desire here is clearly to help Caz grow as a character and develop, by the end of the story you never really get a sense that she’s changed much as a person. She still has the same worries, concerns, issues and world view that she did before, which is a little disappointing.

The book does feature some nice, thought provoking themes in here around the way we consume entertainment, which is actually a rather meta way of referencing back to books of this nature too. For those who have read this one, they’ll know what I’m talking about but suffice to say, there’s actually some purpose to this story and it almost draws inspiration from Black Mirror in the way it presents its ideas.

Overall, The Last Passenger is a very easy book to pick up, and a difficult one to put down. Sure, it’s about 150 pages too long and the characterisation is lacking, but it more than makes up for that with a moreish story and plenty of surprising twists and turns along the way. If you’re looking for something to read while lazing around outside in the sun – The Last Passenger is well worth cruising toward.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

1 thought on “The Last Passenger (2023) Book Review – A compulsive page turning thriller”

  1. I read this book on my Kindle and then my husband read it. We both thought it was one of the best books we have ever read, we don’t agree that it was too long. I am an avid reader and this book totally held me. In fact we have now downloaded more of the authors books. Totally wonderful and gripping read.

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