Book Review – Her Last Breath by Tracy Buchanan

Published: 12th June 2017
Started reading: July 13
Finished reading: July 17
Trigger warnings: Drug use, sexual content, suicide


A fifteen-year-old girl has gone missing. They say Poppy O’Farrell has run away from her celebrity parents, and the media is in a frenzy. But none of this has anything to do with successful lifestyle blogger Estelle Forster . . . So why would someone send her a picture of the missing girl – and a note, claiming to know Estelle’s secrets?

One small photograph will push Estelle’s pristine life to the brink of disaster. To find out who is threatening her, Estelle must return to her coastal hometown and the shameful past she thought was long behind her.

Estelle knows there’s more to Poppy’s disappearance than teenage rebellion. A dangerous game is being played, and the answers lie in the impenetrable community she once called her own.

But how will anyone believe her, if she can’t tell them the truth?


This was a real page-turner that contained no shortage of surprises. An intriguing premise paves the way for a gripping and cleverly woven plot that boasts a memorable setting and a group of interesting, enigmatic characters. These things combined to guarantee that this book held my absolute attention right through to the end.

The opening to the story provides little indication as to the events that follow. Estelle is a minor celebrity; a successful food writer and vlogger who is celebrating the upcoming release of her first book. At the same time, she hears that Poppy O’Farrell, the daughter of a well-known television presenter, has gone missing.

Estelle soon receives a threatening message through the post, along with a polaroid photograph of Poppy. The revelations that follow force Estelle to confront her dubious past and return to the seaside town where she spent several years of her childhood, in search of the answers.

This enables the book to explore some very interesting themes that reoccur throughout. The main one concerns Estelle’s past and her upbringing, which she has concealed in order to aid her reputation. It gets increasingly complex as the story progresses, but I thought the author handled the issue of snobbery relatively well. Even more powerful was the theme of suicide, which as well as being very impressively written, was quite moving.

The thing that really connected me with this book was the plot. The missing child trope is exceedingly common in recent thrillers, but this was a fairly original take on it. The polaroids added a sinister extra layer of tension, while almost every character carried a certain degree of suspicion.

Most of the characters were very well developed and given a large amount of backstory, and they all seemed to have something to hide. In truth, not many of them were likeable, but I actually did not mind as in this case, it helped make the story more interesting. I There were times where I suspected every one of them!

Estelle was a multi-layered protagonist, and she became more fascinating by each twist and every plot development. This only deepened my connection to the book. Some of her actions were slightly irrational, but the same could be said about several of the other characters, particularly Aidan.

The settings added a lot of depth to the book, and I liked how the author contrasted Estelle’s home in London to the seaside town of Lillysands, where most of the events take place. Lillysands, with its long-held secrets of the past, has a menacing atmosphere.

The book contains a lot of twists, but none bigger than the one towards the end. It is a startling moment that made me stop and consider everything that had happened previously in a different light. The way the author guides the reader into thinking something else is brilliantly done. I was not completely sold on the ending itself and how Poppy’s storyline was tied up, but the twist and the way it was revealed, helped to make up for that.

Overall, this was an immersive and very well plotted book. I really liked the depth and originality that went into the story, and how the various strands converged near the end in a twist that has quite the impact. This is my second book by Tracy Buchanan, and I have really enjoyed them both.


A gripping psychological thriller from Tracy Buchanan, who I think is a very underrated author. It is effective, compelling, and contains a remarkable twist.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

6 thoughts on “Book Review – Her Last Breath by Tracy Buchanan

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