Last Night by Karen Ellis

Titus “Crisp” Crespo, Princeton-bound valedictorian and self-proclaimed nerd, avoids risky situations at all costs. Glynnie Dreyfus, solid C-student and self-proclaimed screw-up, can talk—or buy—her way out of almost any difficulty she lands in. They aren’t exactly friends, but when a negative encounter with the NYPD threatens to unravel all of Crisp’s achievements, he figures it can’t get worse if he tags along with rich, white Glynnie to visit her weed dealer…near his absentee father’s old stomping grounds.

Now they’re both missing.

In the middle of the night, near the blinking lights of Coney Island, Crisp’s mother begs Detective Lex Cole to find her son; a few miles away in a  brownstone in upscale Boerum Hill, Glynnie’s parents summon Detective Saki Finley to bring home their wayward daughter. When it emerges that the teenagers were last seen together, the two detectives combine forces to retrace their path through a dangerous maze of housing projects, abandoned warehouses, and drug dens.

Brilliant storyteller Karen Ellis deftly alternates between the teens’ misadventures and the detectives’ investigations, ratcheting up the tension as the hours tick by. The police, we see, aren’t the only ones scrambling to catch up to Glynnie and Crisp … and their futures will look very different depending on who finds them first.

Author Karen Ellis spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing the second installment in the Searchers series, LAST NIGHT:

What attracts you to this book’s genre?

I’m fascinated with how various personal and societal strands weave together to create tension and drama.

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What about the biggest opportunity?

It was a challenge to balance the personal story of the missing teens with the detectives’ search for them, because it entailed weaving literary and procedural genres. The opportunity is to see if this can work.

Which took shape first: plot, character, or setting?

Character and setting (racial and socioeconomic disparity).

Without spoilers, are there any genre conventions you wanted to upend or challenge with this book?

Oh yes—I want to dig deeply into the characters, including the detectives, and use language to shape and color their experiences and perceptions. In other words, my hope is to unite the tension of crime fiction with the depth of literary fiction.

What’s the one question you wish someone would ask you about this book, or your work in general?

“What is your relationship to language?”

My relationship to language in fiction is that its ability to compel imagery that sparks the reader’s imagination is as vital as story and plot. I mentioned it because it seems to be that in commercial fiction it’s often overlooked as a vital part of storytelling.

*****

Katia Lief is the author, pseudonymously as Karen Ellis, of the novels LAST NIGHT and A Map of the Dark published by Mulholland Books/Little, Brown. Under her own name she is also the author of several crime novels including The Money Kill, the fourth installment of her Karin Schaeffer series, published by HarperCollins and nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She teaches fiction writing at The New School and lives with her family in Brooklyn.

To learn more, please visit her website.

 

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