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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Last Book

Zoran Živković

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To purchase The Last Book

Title: The Last Book
Author: Zoran Živković
Genre: Novel
Written: 2007 (Eng. 2008)
Length: 171 pages
Original in: Serbian
Availability: in The Papyrus Trilogy - US
in The Papyrus Trilogy - UK
in The Papyrus Trilogy - Canada
Das letzte Buch - Deutschland
L'ultimo libro - Italia
  • Serbian title: Последња књига
  • The first volume in The Papyrus Trilogy
  • Translated by Alice Copple-Tošić

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Our Assessment:

B+ : nicely spun literary mystery tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . 9-10/2017 Michael A. Morrison

  From the Reviews:
  • "What particularizes them are the witty, intricate development of each case; their richly drawn, engaging characters; and Živković’s diverse play with the underlying challenge he has set for himself" - Michael A. Morrison, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Last Book is narrated by Inspector Dejan Lukić, and begins with him being called to the Papyrus Bookstore, where a customer has passed away. The death doesn't look suspicious -- the man was sitting in an armchair, and seems to have simply died of natural causes -- but it turns out to be a bit more complicated than that: as the doctor who then does the autopsy explains, there was no obvious cause of death.
       A single case of a death without ascertainable cause is one thing, but when the bodies start piling up Lukić has to believe there's something behind it, a common denominator. And, given the bookstore locale -- that's where the first three deaths occur -- and with an inspector who studied and got his degree in literature, it's no surprise that everything points to a bookish, literary explanation. A poisoned book each of the victims handled, possibly ?
       Lukić continues following leads (and bodies) as best he can -- and also begins a relationship with Vera, one of the owners of the bookstore. The case also eventually attracts the attention of the National Security Agency, and its Commissioner Milenković, who have their own secretive way of doing things -- which includes some very tight surveillance, of both the bookstore and Inspector Lukić.
       Soon enough, it's semi-clear what's behind these events -- the 'last book'. A book that many people seem to want to get their hands on -- and that appears to have fatal properties if (mis)handled. It is clearly dangerous -- possibly very much so: "Everything is in danger. The whole world."
       Živković orchestrates some nice scenes with and around the mystery-book, especially in the bookstore, where it is mis- and re-placed, including in one elaborate crowd-scene. He also has Lukić troubled by some vivid dreams (inevitably after sleeping with Vera, in what becomes a running joke of theirs, of sorts) -- and has Lukić repeatedly get a sense not of déjà vu but of déjà lu (appropriately enough, in this bookish story).
       For the most part The Last Book plods along amiably and simply enough, though with a sinister group apparently intent on finding -- and somehow using -- the book, and the almost equally sinister National Security Agency lurking in every background it certainly grows into a more ominous investigation. The resolution shouldn't surprise readers familiar with Živković's work, but even those that are should find the anything but typical thriller-denouement a nice twist.
       The nature of the ending also prevents me from saying much more about why this is such a satisfying novel -- to explain even what appeals about it undermines the satisfaction. On the one hand, it's a quiet, almost subdued conclusion (especially considering this is a thriller about a book with the potential to destroy the world). Quiet, and yet .....
       To say too much -- or almost anything -- about it also threatens to build it up too much, which does the conclusion and the book a disservice too. Let's just say: Živković knows what he's doing, and he does it well here.

- M.A.Orthofer, 27 August 2016

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The Last Book: Reviews: Zoran Živković: Other books by Zoran Zivkovic under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Zoran Živković was born in Belgrade in 1948.

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