The Last Best Friend opens with recently separated Ned Balfour enjoying a lighthearted Mediterranean vacation with a young woman. He receives a cable from his best friend Sammy Weiss telling him he has a “terrible decision” to make and needs Ned’s advice. Before Ned can call him, he gets another telegram telling him his friend is dead and he must come home.
He can’t quite understand why his friend would kill himself, particularly since jumping out a window is probably that last choice of an acrophobe with vertigo. He asks around among their mutual friends to see if he can understand what the terrible decision might be and if there is some explanation.
He is soon warned off by a menacing enforcer accompanied by a few hired strongmen. I really don’t understand why bad guys “warn off” folks like Balfour who without their intervention might soon have decided there was really nothing to investigate. Once you are warned off, you know there is something to investigate. It’s a big flashing neon sign that there is some crime.
George Sims wrote The Last Best Friend in the Sixties and that is when it takes place. Seeing the date 1966 in the story, though, always left me disconcerted because it felt so much more like a post-World War II novel. It felt out of its time. Did England in the late Sixties still orient itself fully around World War II or what that a generational orientation? I just felt the time and the mood of the novel were incongruent.
I like the way Sims writes. I was interested in Ned Balfour and his friend’s death. I wanted to know the answers. I figured it out, but I think that’s because this plot has been used several more times since it was published in 1967. It would have been so much fresher then. It is unfortunate his work has gone out of fashion because he was a clever writer.
I received an e-galley of The Last Best Friend from the publisher through NetGalley.