Tor
"Nothing Left to Lose" is by Dan Wells.

"NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE," by Dan Wells, Tor, $27.99, 336 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

After the breathless, desperate masterpiece that was "Over Your Dead Body," Utah author Dan Wells comes back with another work of macabre art with "Nothing Left to Lose." Like the previous five novels and one novella in the series, "Nothing Left" follows Wells' sociopath turned sometimes hero John Cleaver.

Hailing back to his first trilogy, this time around Cleaver is working alone again, in stark contrast to the last two books. After so much effort spent in "Over Your Dead Body" to convince readers that Cleaver can only be stable with his last friend and true companion by his side, it’s a bit cheap to have the morally unhinged protagonist operating so coolly and smoothly in "Nothing Left to Lose."

That said, while "Nothing Left" is a bit emotionally hollow, it more than makes up for it with its fast-paced story that has tight twists and turns on nearly every page. Cleaver is back where he was in the first three books: working in a mortuary, stalking and plotting all the while, and it’s a comfortably familiar place for both Cleaver and the reader. The beginning does take its sweet time introducing new yet enjoyable characters, but quickly ramps up to an enjoyably climatic ending.

The ending wrap-up felt a bit far-fetched and saccharine, given the tone of the series. Every step up to that point, however, is pulse-pounding and anything but delicate and sweet. Wells’ inevitable plot twists are all so logical and well-thought-out, they will shock readers and simultaneously make them wonder how they didn’t see them coming, and his writing has matured so much that every gory page is a delight to read.

A central facet of one new character involves a repeated discussion of recovering from rape. Written with empathy and consideration, it would still bring up some uncomfortable dinner-table conversations to unknowing youngsters. Of course, with frequent mild language and repeated and gruesome violence par for the Cleaver course, those youngsters should steer clear anyway.

"Nothing Left to Lose" is a fitting end to a six book series, but it can be picked up without having read the others. This last Cleaver might even be the most standalone book in the series, but readers will feel left out of references and prior character building.

Dan Wells' latest comes in as one of the greats in the Cleaver series, paralleled only by book five's emotional depth and book one's intro to readers' favorite sociopath. This is Cleaver true to his purest form, and the story is smooth and glistening as exposed viscera.

If you go …

What: Dan Wells book signing

When: Tuesday, June 20, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East

Web: kingsenglish.com

Note: The signing line is for those who buy a copy of the featured book from The King’s English.