The Last Goodbye: A Novel

The Last Goodbye: A Novel

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by Reed Arvin

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When a down-on-his-luck attorney gets mixed up with a gorgeous singer with a secret past, it results in a volatile tale of love, betrayal and murder in the tradition of Richard North Paterson and other bestselling authors.

Jack Hammond is a man haunted by the sins of his past. Once a member of a white-shoe law firm, he lost his once-promising career because of a


When a down-on-his-luck attorney gets mixed up with a gorgeous singer with a secret past, it results in a volatile tale of love, betrayal and murder in the tradition of Richard North Paterson and other bestselling authors.

Jack Hammond is a man haunted by the sins of his past. Once a member of a white-shoe law firm, he lost his once-promising career because of a transgression with a beautiful female client. Now he works out of a seedy office in downtown Atlanta. The only income he can count on is as the court-appointed attorney to the dregs of the court system. When his friend-a former addict and computer whiz who'd turned his life around-is found dead in his apartment with a syringe stuck in his arm, Jack knows there's something very wrong. In his attempt to get to the bottom of Doug's murder, Jack is drawn into the spellbinding world of a gorgeous black opera singer with whom Doug had been secretly in love.

As the story deepens, Hammond gets pulled into the worlds of high-tech, biological research, big business, and high society. Arvin pulls all these threads together in riveting fashion.

Reed Arvin's new novel introduces an unforgettable hero whose flawed humanity and wry humour will keep readers rooting for him, and a fast-paced story with enough twists and turns to keep readers turning the pages.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist on The Will
“On par with the early works of Grisham, this thriller is enlivened with sparkling dialogue and deft descriptions of place.”
“Arvin’s writing is delightfully sardonic . . . you’ll be hooked.”
Denver Post on The Will
“Compelling...[the] characters are …fully fleshed out and believable...The Will could be the beginning of an impressive career.”
Us Weekly ("Hot Book Pick")
“As the suspense comes to a boil, so do the hero’s feelings for his dead buddy’s troubled girlfriend.”
“Love, sex, money, power, and violence in an irresistibly melancholy noir package.”
New York Times
“. . . smoldering . . . vigorous and jet-propelled . . . an exceptionally clever mystery.”
Entertainment Weekly
“Arvin...combin[es] an array of supporting characters who colorfully illustrate the racial and economic divide of the new Atlanta...”
("Hot Book Pick") - Us Weekly
"As the suspense comes to a boil, so do the hero’s feelings for his dead buddy’s troubled girlfriend."
People Magazine
"Arvin’s writing is delightfully sardonic . . . you’ll be hooked."
Publishers Weekly
"As usual, the story begins with a woman crying." So says Atlanta lawyer Jack Hammond in this mesmerizing thriller about a good man caught in a web of bad love and murder. Beautiful client Violeta Ramirez is doing the crying on behalf of her dope-dealer boyfriend when Jack tumbles so hard for her his high-flying legal career is grounded and Violeta ends up dead. Two years later, Jack is working out of his one-man law office fishing for clients at the bottom of the criminal pool when he begins investigating the suspicious overdose death of his old college pal, Doug Townsend. With the help of a local hacker, Nightmare, Jack unlocks Doug's computer and stumbles into a quagmire involving the deaths of eight hepatitis C patients who were all enrolled in an experimental drug trial gone horribly wrong. Doug was also strangely obsessed with beautiful African-American opera singer Michele Sonnier, as is Jack after one look at her photos and a night at the opera. That her husband is the billionaire CEO of a local drug firm with its own hep C drug makes the liaison even more dangerous. After finding the disgraced researcher who headed the botched drug trial, Jack and his lowlife helpers begin to make real headway in solving the case. Even though melancholy, wisecracking Jack is a lawyer, this isn't a legal thriller so much as a knight-in-shining armor tale with the hero cast in the mold of the great Travis McGee. It's not Grisham that Arvin (The Will) should be compared to, but the incomparable John D. MacDonald. Those readers who value intelligence, fine writing and action will find it all in this outstanding novel. 100,000 first printing. (Feb. 17) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Unlike his more original debut, The Will, Arvin's sophomore effort treads familiar ground. Jack Hammond's catastrophic decision to sleep with a client led to his ouster from a high-powered corporate law firm. Two years later, Jack is living case by case as a public defender and has convinced himself that nothing truly matters. His cynical, self-imposed isolation ends when he learns of the supposed suicide of a former college friend, Doug Townsend. Jack doesn't believe the official report and is determined to give Doug the justice he deserves. Soon, however, he is in over his head in a case that involves gang bangers, a powerful drug company about to go public, and a beautiful opera singer. Faced with emotional and physical danger, Jack struggles not only to survive but also to make sense of his life and the decisions he has made. Unfortunately, Jack is a highly unoriginal reworking of a dozen other down-but-not-out, reluctantly heroic lawyers who must fight the good fight. The plot also feels pieced together, which means the sum of the book's parts does not make a believable whole. For larger public libraries.-Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A marginal Atlanta lawyer's attempt to avenge his even more marginal college friend's death leads him through some wildly improbable twists to something like redemption. Two years after a disastrous fling with a client's lover bounced him off his white-shoe firm's fast track, Jack Hammond, "an unwanted expert on the damaged southern soul," loses another client the worst way possible when his old tutor Doug Townsend is found dead of a drug overdose. But although Jack's defended Doug many times on possession charges, he can't believe Doug's ever used fentanyl, and he knows Doug had a horror of needles like the one that supposedly killed him. If he was indeed murdered, the only clues to the perp seem to be a sheaf of photos of opera star Michele Sonnier, a troubled black beauty, found among Doug's effects and the computer Doug used to hack into her wealthy husband Charles Ralston's firm, Horizn [sic] Pharmaceuticals. Following this unlikely trail, Jack soon links raffish Doug to both members of the glittering couple-only to find that the mounting evidence of Horizn skullduggery (eight victims, all killed in a fiendishly untraceable way) has left no legal evidence at all, and that if Jack and his unlikely allies-another misfit hacker and a disgraced medical researcher-want to snatch that evidence from under Horizn's suspicious noses, they'll have to fight fire with fire. To reveal more about the plot would spoil several well-planted surprises among some comfortably familiar character types. Suffice it to say that Jack eventually rouses himself from some windy moralizing and plunges into an investigation-cum-romance as breathlessly entertaining as it is preposterous. Less original than TheWill (2001) but fleeter and more ambitious in a legal-gangbusters way that genre fans will find as irresistible as a call from the grave for revenge. First printing of 100,000. Agents: Jane Dystel

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Last Goodbye

Chapter One

So I'll tell you. I'll tell you because confession is supposed to be good for the soul, and when choosing between the tonics available -- from religion to Tony Robbins to the friendly late-night chemist -- this unburdening seems to present the least risk. When it comes to my soul, I have adopted a doctor's attitude: First, do no harm.

The complete overthrow of my principles. That was what I had done. A moment in time, and my life -- previously not lived to the highest standards, but plenty respectable -- blew up. The distance between integrity and the loss of innocence proved to be razor-thin, a handful of decisions, frictionless, greased with desire. I thought I was choosing a woman. I thought -- and I have to swallow this back, but it's the truth, and this is the unburdening, after all -- I had earned her. And now she is my ghost, come to judge me.

This is the beginning of moral collapse: to be held captive by a woman's eyes. Looking into hers, my mind went blank. All I knew was that she was in my office, and she was crying, and at some point I asked her to sit down. Her name was Violeta Ramirez, and I ignored her faux leather pocketbook, her Wal-mart dress, the run in her stocking. These were signals that she was in the wrong office, of course, in the same way that a Timex is the wrong watch in a store that sells yachts. But I was looking at her flawless, caramel skin, the deep, black hair pulled back, the fathomless, brown eyes. The familiar script in my body began to play, this hormone washing over these cells, neurons lighting up, a million years of evolution lining up my thoughts like little soldiers.

The clients of Carthy, Williams and Douglas did not generally cry in my office. They were far more likely to rant, curse, or even, when I was lucky, to intently listen. But having paid four hundred dollars an hour for the privilege of occupying the chair opposite me, complaints about their manners were not welcome. A crying woman was something else, however, and I found myself leaping up, asking her if I could get her anything. She was exquisitely beautiful, she was crying, and she could not be ignored.

Caliz was the father of her child, she said. There had been a mistake; he had aggravated the police; they had planted las drogas on him. He was good, if only people understood him. He had a smart mouth, and the police had made him pay. He was no choirboy, she knew that -- was that a bruise hiding underneath her dark makeup? -- but of this, he was innocent.

I don't know if she was aware of the effect she was having on me. I watched, mesmerized, as each tear slipped down her cheek. She crossed her legs, and I caught my breath. It's not that I didn't appreciate most women. I have appreciated them from my earliest memories, from the bosomy warmth of my mother to the incisive intelligence of the female associates at the firm. It's just that feminism doesn't mean anything to the human body, and there was something so uncomplicated and vulnerable in her that I couldn't stop my entire soul from wanting her.

There were obligations, which I met: I explained the firm didn't do drug cases, or for that matter, criminal law of any kind. The crying had gotten worse then, and in the end I couldn't even bring up the obvious impossibility of her paying my fee. But it wouldn't have mattered, because Carthy, Williams and Douglas would sooner invite the archangel of death into their offices than defend a drug dealer. So I simply said that my hands were tied, which was true. I did not have the power to change the rules of the firm. She rose, shook my hand, and crept from my office in tears and humiliation. Hours after she left, the image of her lingered. I stared at the chair where she had been, willing her back. For two days, I couldn't do a thing at the office. At last I called her, telling her I would see what I could do. The truth is, I would have moved heaven and earth to see her again.

It was work selling the idea to the firm. By meticulous design, Carthy, Williams and Douglas was as far away from legal aid as it was possible to get. Its offices occupied three floors of the Tower Walk building in Buckhead, the part of Atlanta where it's a crime to be either old or poor. And if anybody was going to go play in the slums for a few days, it wasn't likely to be me, Jack Hammond. At three years out of law school, I had just moved to Atlanta -- the magnet that pulls together the shards of humanity from all over the Southeast -- was working seventy-hour weeks, and generally outspending my salary with a vengeance. I couldn't afford any detours. But in spite of this, I made an appointment with founding partner Frank Carthy.

Carthy was seventy years old and had come up when pro bono work was a part of every big firm's responsibility. Until the early 1980s it had been expected, and judges had handed it out as a part of the obligation of the profession. That had suited him fine; he was an old-school southern liberal, with a soft spot for civil rights cases. He still told stories about getting protesters out of jail in the 1960s, mostly for things like being the wrong color to sit at a particular place in a restaurant. So even though he would resist a drug case, he might be attracted to a case about a crying girl and false arrest based on race ...

The Last Goodbye. Copyright © by Reed Arvin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Reed Arvin grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Kansas. After a successful career as a music producer in Nashville, Arvin began writing full-time. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Last Goodbye 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I have read by Reed Arvin, but I will be looking for his other books! I couldn't put this book down! It was great!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
When my 10 year old niece noticed the fragrance of Atlanta,twenty years ago,I was impressed. Now, Reed Arvin has written a thriller that has such a ring of authenticity that I have learned some truths in life from reading it.. The plot is narrated by failed lawyer, Jack Hammond,who loves a beautiful opera singer,Michelle Sommier. He helps her search for her secret child even as her evil husband,Charles Ralston tests new drug liptran AX by murdering 7 people in trials.There is much of the sordid drug dealers in illegal drugs as well as underhanded dealings by manipulation of stock trading.How and why Hammond is driven to do the right thing makes him unforgettable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept me reading. Would recommend if you like mystery & some suspense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pretty violent but a good story, good characters, couldn't put it down at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Attorney Jack Hammond is a good defender, with a lot of heart, but his list of clients is low, and his bankbook is even lower, since he left a prestigious law firm. The death of long-time, college friend Doug Townsend is viewed by Jack as a murder paralleled to the police report of a 'suicide'. Doug's body is found with a needle in one arm, and the autopsy reports that he died from an O/D of fenatyl. Jack knows different as his friend had been 'sober' for many years, and Doug never followed the fenatyl path. Hammond's investigation leads him to 'hacker' Nightmare (a favorable character to the story), to opera diva Michele Sonnier - her splendor on stage, and her murky past neither of which stops Jack from falling in love with her. Michele is also married to pharmaceutical mogul Charles Ralston, founder of Horizn Pharmaceuticals, conspirator with a trial drug (tested on humans which results in death) for hepatitis C. Yes, The Last Goodbye has a good premise and a few good characters, but Arvin's development of both of the latter is very weak. Narrated by protagonist Jack Hammond, the author delivers very weak dialog, unnecessary flowered prose to cover pages and move the story from A to Z, slooooowly, diverting from the original path of Doug's death, creating a thought process to the reader of 'where is this story going and when will it end?!' A farcical, way-out-there, disappointing ending, and overall too much rhetoric.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Is it possible for a tension propelled, can't-stop-reading-it thriller to also be beautiful. In the case of Reed Arvin's second novel the answer is a resounding yes. For 'The Last Goodbye' is not only an up to date mystery bursting with sex, violence, genetic research, racism, and other murky machinations but it is a deftly painted portrait of a city, Atlanta, from its prison-like public housing project to the upscale avenues where commerce and corruption take place. Arvin sees this city with an artist's eye: 'The natural beauty of the place somehow persists; its breezes are still sweet, its pines slender and tall, its honeysuckle fragrant. Cast in that gentle glow, the city willingly accepts its most treasured illusions. And what happens in a city can happen in a pair of human souls.' From prose rich in poetic reference this gifted writer immediately segues to the city's underbelly with vivid descriptions of both the under- and over-privileged as his intriguing story unfolds. Jack Hammond was once an attorney with a top flight Atlanta law firm. An up and comer, no doubt, until he made one large mistake. As a result he's booted from the firm and now makes his living as a court appointed attorney working out of a dingy downtown office overseen by the gorgeous fashion magazine loving Blu. 'Nearly devoid' of skills save for her physical appearance she receiving a barely living wage. Another compatriot is Sammy Liston, the clerk who sends cases his way. Sammy's largesse is due in large part to his unreturned passion for Blu. Doug Townsend was once a friend, and a good one. Once is the operative word here because Townsend, a former addict, has been found dead. Problem is he was found with a needle in his arm, and he had a phobic fear of needles. Hammond is convinced that his friend was murdered, but why? Much of Townsend's dreary life had been spent in front of a flickering computer screen - he had been a hacker. Convinced that the secret to his friend's death can be found in that computer, Townsend enlists the help of a concave chested scarecrow dubbed Nightmare to unlock Townsend's computer. More than secrets are unlocked. The trail leads to a beautiful opera star - African-American Michele Sonnier by whom Townsend had evidently become obsessed. Further, Sonnier is married to a high powered black businessman, the CEO of Horizn Pharmaceuticals. Townsend's recent hacking activities tie him with that company. Before long Hammond has good reason to fear for his life. But, perhaps he is too blind to see that as he has become infatuated with the irresistible singer. She has a tortured past; he has a dark past. The question is do either of them have a future. Sure to establish Reed Arvin in the top rank of thriller writers 'The Last Goodbye' is a mesmerizing tale compellingly told.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh, okay. Sorry. Got stuck in another RP... see, I'm having abproblem right now: i didnt do my home work!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a waste of time. I can't believe I kept on reading this book. I thought sonewhere along the way it would get better. It just draged on and on, with no end in site. I can honestly say I probably won't purchase another book by this author. The one good thing I have to say is at least I didn't pay full price for it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ohhhkayyyy. I might stay but i gotta go. I feel sick and my nook is gonna die soon.