#aww2020 · 2020 Reviews · contemporary fiction · mystery · new release · romance

New Release Book Review: Her Last Words by Kim Kelly

Title: Her Last Words

Author: Kim Kelly

Published: July 7th 2020

Publisher: Jazz Monkey Publications

Pages: 320

Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Mystery

Rating: 4.5 stars

A murder. A missing manuscript. An undying love.

Thisbe Chisholm wants to be a writer. It’s 2007, a time of digital revolution and skyrocketing property prices, but she’s an old-fashioned girl. She doesn’t even own a mobile phone. She has no stars-in-her-eyes desire for fame, to see her name on the cover of a book, either. She longs only to tell of the stories written on her heart.

While her best friends, Penny and Jane, and her darling boyfriend, John, seem set for stellar careers in their chosen fields, Thisbe works nights as a hostess at a glitzy harbourside Sydney club – a job she despises but it’s paid the rent for the last three years since university graduation.

Just as she completes her novel, though, she is brutally killed at the end of John’s street.

Who murdered Thisbe? What will become of her novel?

From the gritty glamour of Bondi Beach to the cold streets of London, here is a tale of tragedy and literary betrayal, of a publishing industry grappling with change and a great love drowning in guilt-wracked grief. Haunting, whimsical and sharply observed, Her Last Words lays bare the truth that, while some crimes might go unpunished among the privileged, words themselves have a way of enduring – and exacting a justice all their own.


‘Thizz loved words, all right, and doing original things with them.’

Kim Kelly’s latest literary triumph is a book that will resonate deeply with wordsmiths. Defined by perfectly defined and stunning prose, thoughtful characterisation and multilayered plotline, Her Last Words is a novel that holds strong meaning. It was truly wonderful to see a well-regarded Australian historical fiction novelist branch out and dabble in the world of contemporary fiction.

Her Last Words tracks a murder, a keynote manuscript, love and grief. We meet aspiring writer Thisbe Chisholm in the year 2007. This is a time of great change especially in the media, publishing and technology industries. But Thisbe is wholesome woman, who is determined not to let these new influences dictate her life. Thisbe is a literary soul at heart, with a mission to spread her joy of words to others via her writing, which has not yet been released to the publishing world. With her friends by her side, all inciting success in their selected job paths, Thisbe continues to toil on in her job as a hostess for a Sydney Club. Thisbe’s life is tragically cut short when she is killed, before she is able to see her manuscript published. Her Last Words charts the time during and after Thisbe’s death revealing plenty of hard truths, shock, betrayals, immense grief, surprises, and sharp observations. Will Thisbe’s life simply be forgotten and will her manuscript be buried with her?

Her Last Words is 2020 contemporary fiction title, published by Jazz Monkey Publications. Over the course of the ten novels she has written, Kim Kelly has quietly cemented a spot as one of Australia’s foremost storytellers in the field of historical fiction. Kim Kelly returns with a new title that breaks away from her beautiful historical fiction titles. Her Last Words is Kelly’s first foray in the field of Australian contemporary fiction and it is a wonderful addition to the genre.

I really loved the format of Her Last Words, it was creative, intriguing and structurally sound. I appreciated the way in which Kim Kelly managed to take on quite an ambitious feat with this novel, as she does with every single novel she has produced. Her Last Words was creative in approach,  intricately layered and well voiced, drawing in the various viewpoints of the key players of this thought provoking contemporary novel. I found my interest level was consistently maintained through my reading of this book, it never dipped and I was keen to see how the Her Last Words would evolve as a whole.

As with every Kim Kelly production I have encountered, her characterisation is spot on. This was very much the case with Her Last Words. I was deeply intrigued and connected to Thisbe. John and Penny, along with the support staff truly bring out the best in this novel. With keenly observed, realistic and interesting characters, Kelly’s novel seems to hit the write note on all fronts. The background and setting base was carefully produced on the pages of Her Last Words. I was able to imagine the world inhabited by Thisbe in the recent past and that of the other characters in the more present day sequences. Drawing on moments of reflection, wit, insight, deep emotion, love, friendship, mental illness, grief, justice, redemption and resolve, Kim Kelly has without a doubt produced a novel that gleams.

What I loved the most about Her Last Words and I’m sure this will sit well with other book lovers is how the mystery aspect of this novel is tied up to the world of writing, publishing and independent bookshops. I valued the insight, research approach and presentation of this area of the novel. This umbrella focus of the book seemed to sing, extending the interest level of this reader. The conclusion to Kim Kelly’s latest literary offering was just and ultimately hopeful in its intent. Before closing this review I urge any reader of Her Last Words to take the time to peruse the Author Note section located at the back of the book. Kim Kelly offers up her heart and soul, revealing a very personal motivation for penning this novel.

Her Last Words is a more than tempting title, brilliant in execution and ultimately seducing. It represents a wonderful entry for Kim Kelly in the field of Australian contemporary fiction.

Her Last Words by Kim Kelly was published on July 7th 2020 by Jazz Monkey Publications. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Her Last Words, Kim Kelly visit here

*I wish to thank the author, Kim Kelly, for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Her Last Words is book #106 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge

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