“The Last” Hanna Jameson – abandoned at 10% – too many details about Switzerland were wrong

I pre-ordered this book, based on positive reviews of ARCs.

I was hooked by the idea of a murder mystery being investigated by an American academic stranded in a remote Swiss hotel when a nuclear war kicks off.

The book arrived in my audible library today and I dived right in.

I abandoned the book at 10%, with the body discovered but the murder investigation not yet underway, because nothing about the setting made any sense.

I think the problem is that I lived in Switzerland for sixteen years and I’m very familiar with its hotels, with its government and with its arrangements in the event of a nuclear war.

Hanna Jameson seems to be writing about an alternative Switzerland that I’ve never visited.

The real Switzerland is a densely populated and there are no hotels that are remote in the Amerian sense of the word. There are always villages and towns nearby, even in the mountains. Local government is strong in Switzerland. The local Commune would never leave people abandoned at a hotel. The Civil Defence organisation would manage allocating people to local nuclear bunkers. Every village would have a pharmacy, often two or three, so you’d never have to head out to a “superstore” to find medical supplies. The hotel would hold the passports of all guests so their occupations and personal details would be known whereas, in the book, we get a list of “occupation unknown” statements.

The hotel in the book has fourteen floors and almost a thousand rooms. This is very unlikely. Switzerland isn’t Vegas. You don’t get hotels this large except in the biggest cities and even then they’re rare. A hotel that size would have hundreds of staff and strong ties to the local community. Hanna Jefferson seems to be writing about a big resort hotel in Maine à la “The Shining”.

Then there’s basic physics. The hotel manager decides to save (as in store up) electricity by cutting power to floors above a certain height. How does this save electricity? Hotels are not battery powered in Switzerland. This is like Tom Sawyer painting faster because he’s running out of paint.

The only person who is actually described as Swiss in this book has a very American name. Then we have people described as Swiss-Russian. This doesn’t exist. I can see Swiss French and Swiss German but there is no Swiss-Russian.

I should probably find these things less distracting than I do but if you decide to set a novel in a real place, some basic research would help. If I can’t believe the setting, why should I believe anything else?

Perhaps I’d have stuck with this if the main character hadn’t been such a zero-charisma wimp. An academic historian who seems to lack the ability to think things through. Perhaps he’s just drifting along in shock but that doesn’t make him a great choice as the POV to write the story from.

Maybe there’s a fascinating murder mystery here, which, if it were reset on an abandoned space station or a hotel in Alaska, I’d find fascinating. I’ll never know as I’ve already returned the book to Audible.


2 thoughts on ““The Last” Hanna Jameson – abandoned at 10% – too many details about Switzerland were wrong

  1. I am reading this book now and have to agree with you. I am a little further along. The electricity thing is really annoying. Either you have electricity or you don’t. If the national grid is still up and running surely this is a good clue that things haven’t completely fallen into disarray, that vital infrastructure is being maintained, and there are people working away at power stations at least. I find it hard to believe that a hotel would have a backup generator, or that it could run for months with apparently no replenishment of fuel.

    It’s also bizarre that it hasn’t occurred to anyone that maintaining communications is their absolute best chance to survive. Instead they let batteries run down and make no effort to contact anyone. It’s baffling. They all seem to instantly assume that the rest of the world is gone and make no strides to confirm same.

    Unfortunately I will have to finish the book to find out if there’s some ingenious explanation for why everyone is acting like idiots. Thanks for your review. I know now I’m not alone in my irritation.

    Liked by 1 person

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