Gail Bowen's The Last Good Day

Gail Bowen’s 9th Joanne Kilbourn mystery, The Last Good Day, was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award. Joanne is not a typical amateur detective; as a busy mother, grandmother, and political science professor, she juggles many roles. Gail Bowen, herself a professor at the University of Regina, won the Arthur Ellis Award for her earlier mystery, A Colder Kind of Death.

The Last Good Day is the perfect novel to read on a lazy summer day. Joanne and two of her children spend their summer vacation at a cottage in the exclusive Lawyers’ Bay area, an hour away from their Regina home. The cottages in the area are owned by partners in the law firm, Falconer Shreve. Life is good in the beginning of the novel: the scenery splendid, the cottage relaxing, and the cottagers friendly.

Just after Koanne arrives, the partners host Canada Day festivities that Joanne and her children totally enjoy. During the party, Joanne meets and talks with one of the partners; the next day his body is found inside his car, submerged in the bay.

As Joanne explores his strange death, she uncovers another mystery. A former employee at Falconer Shreve cannot be located; she seems to have simply vanished. The partners in this prestigious firm become the closed circle of suspects. Bowen draws us into the novel by creating complex and convincing portraits of these characters.

Joanne is a character with the same concerns and worries as the reader; we can easily identify with her down-to-earth character. We see the events of the novel from her thoughtful and reflective perspective. The Last Good Day is a satisfying character-centred novel, one that combines domesticity and mystery.

The summer-time ambience, the luxuriant cottage setting, the inexplicable events, and the exclusive community of law partners provide the perfect ingredients for a very readable novel. The Globe and Mail’s Margaret Cannon claims that Bowen’s The Last Good Day is “the best of the series thus far, outclassing even her prize-winning A Colder Kind of Death. This is a classic whodunit, in which everything from setting to plot to character works beautifully” (2004).

Bowen, Gail. The Last Good Day. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2004.

Cannon, Margaret. “Crime Books.” The Globe and Mail. September 18, 2004.