Last Seen


By Sara Shepard

Formats and Prices




$12.99 CAD



  1. ebook $9.99 $12.99 CAD
  2. Hardcover $17.99 $18.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around November 4, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

When you make a deal with the devil . . .

Someone will get burned. Shy and musically gifted nine-year-old Damien Dover went missing from his home in the Catskills two months ago. The trail has gone cold, with no new leads.

When the killer they know all too well tasks Seneca, Maddox, and Madison with solving the case and finding the boy, they can’t imagine what his interest in the tragedy could be. But with Aerin kidnapped and at the twisted mastermind’s mercy, her friends have no choice but to play his game and try to solve the puzzle.

As the three amateur sleuths hit the Jersey Shore to gather clues, they begin to uncover the true background of the killer, and the horrors that shaped him into who he is. The scavenger hunt leads them to a serial criminal, a former victim, and dark secrets they could never have seen coming.

Aerin struggles to play nice with the person who killed her sister while her friends work feverishly against the ticking clock to save her life. Every clue they uncover leads them closer to Aerin–and to the killer. But will he really let Aerin go… or does he have one more murderous surprise in store?

With nail-biting suspense, twisted secrets, and nonstop action, this final installment in #1 New York Times best-selling author Sara Shepard’s The Amateurs series will shock even the savviest of readers with its big reveal.


Text copyright © 2018 by Alloy Entertainment, LLC and Sara Shepard
Designed by Marci Senders
Cover design by Whitney Manger

Beach photograph © 2018 Franck Boston/Shutterstock
Flags photograph © 2018 Perfect Lazybones/Shutterstock

All rights reserved. Published by Freeform Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Freeform Books, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.

ISBN 978-1-4847-4734-6


To Clyde

IT WAS SO dark in the shed. His underwear was wet, and his skin itched. It smelled awful in here—a little like the mouse that had died under his family’s porch that one time. And he could hear the ocean going whoosh-whoosh-whoosh, but he didn’t know where the sound was coming from. He hadn’t actually seen the ocean since coming here. It wasn’t like he was on a fun vacation.

He moved right and left, bumping into plastic beach buckets, rusty bikes, and a busted pool float. He’d never been allowed to play with any of it. He kept thinking about all the creatures that might be crawling over him. Centipedes. Spiders. Maybe even a mouse. His throat tightened. The smell of that dead mouse had gotten worse and worse every day—first it smelled like puke, then something even more awful. When his dad finally pulled it out with a shovel, there were only bones. He’d screamed, and his dad had run over to him to give him a hug. I know, buddy, he said. It isn’t pretty.

Would he ever see his dad again? Was he going to turn into that mouse?

His heart started to pound. He pressed his face into his knees. In times like this, times when he got really scared, the only thing that helped was to disappear into the Harry Potter books he loved. If he were at Hogwarts instead of trapped here, if he had magical powers like Harry and his friends, he’d strike down the woman who’d done this to him with a magic spell. She’d shrivel up and disappear. And then? Then he’d run. He’d run fast, away.

The door creaked open. He stood up, suddenly not able to breathe. The light made his eyes hurt, and he brought his bound hands to his face.

She stared at him. She wore that big flowered dress, the one that fit her once but didn’t anymore. Her hair was a tangle of orangey-blond around her face. When she was just his teacher, she’d reminded him of the friendly scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. Now she was more of a Halloween skeleton.

“I—I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I’ll never do it again, I promise.”

She sniffed and gave him an ugly look. Once upon a time, he hadn’t felt stranger danger with her. He’d thought she was a normal, friendly, happy person he knew well, a person who told funny jokes and gave him Junior Mints after a lesson and talked to him about the Harry ­Potter books—she said she loved them, too.

They never talked about Harry Potter books anymore.

“C-can I go back there?” he said, gesturing to the house across the yard. He could see it through the crack in the door. “I’m thirsty.”

She wrinkled her nose. “I’m thirsty,” she mocked. “Whose fault is that?”

His cheeks burned. How long had he been trapped in here? When she first shut him inside, he’d wanted to scream, but then he worried she’d do something even worse. You better watch it, she was always saying. I could really make t

hings bad. You should be happy about how kind I’m being. She also told him that his parents were glad he was gone, and they weren’t searching to bring him home. No one was. No one

She shook a finger at him. “You should have thought about what would happen before you did it. But you didn’t, and you broke my heart. All I’ve done for you, and this is what I get. You leave me. You make me look like a fool.”

“I—I said I was sorry.”

He knew he should have never tried to escape…but it had felt so good. Out there on the sidewalk, he’d turned from the helpless victim into a hero in one of his books—into Harry Potter himself. The air had smelled so fresh. The hot summer sun gave him strength. When he’d knocked on that door two houses down, he’d been sure the people staying there would save him.

Now she moved closer, her face almost touching his. Her breath smelled like coffee, just as his mother’s always did when she leaned over his bed to wake him up for school. It made him so homesick to smell it, and yet he always kind of wanted to smell it, too, just so he could remember.

When she reached for him, he flinched. But instead of hitting him, she petted the side of his cheek. “My sweet, sweet boy. I love you. You know that, right?”

“Uh-huh,” he whispered. But he felt icky for saying it.

“Except you’ve been so very bad. And bad boys need to be punished.”

The door crashed shut so hard that the whole crappy plastic shed rattled. “Wait!” He lurched forward, tripping over his tied-up ankles. “Wait, no, please! Let me out! I’ll never do it again! I promise!”

“I’m sorry, honey.” The metal padlock clicked into place. “But this is how it has to be.”

SENECA FRAZIER STOOD in the way-too-chilly, upscale lobby of the Reeds Hotel in Avignon, New Jersey, staring in horror at a text message she’d just received.

Don’t bother looking for us. We’re outta here.

“Impossible,” Maddox Wright whispered. Maddox rubbed the bridge of his nose, which was peeling from sunburn, and pushed his grown-out brown hair out of his eyes. “You really think it’s from Brett?”

Seneca was clenching her jaw so hard it felt like her teeth might grind to powder. “It has to be. But what the hell does it mean?”

Seneca, Maddox, and Maddox’s stepsister, Madison, plus their friends Aerin Kelly and Thomas Grove had been embroiled in a game of cat and mouse with Brett Grady for the past week. Ironically, once upon a time, Brett had also been their friend, a member of their cobbled-together investigative team—they’d met on a crime-solving website, Case Not Closed, which acted as a gathering place for people who loved digging into cold cases. Their first case had been to figure out what had happened to Helena Kelly, Aerin’s sister, whose bones had turned up in a park years after her mysterious disappearance. During that investigation, they’d trusted and respected Brett. He had great insights. He’d been a good listener, and he’d stuck by them to the very end, when they believed they’d found Helena’s murderer—Marissa Ingram, the wife of the man Helena was having an affair with.

Little did they know at the time that he’d steered that investigation exactly where he wanted it to go. He was the one who’d murdered Helena, not Marissa Ingram. But he’d disappeared before Seneca had made the connection. And that wasn’t all Brett had done….Through subtle hints he’d dropped, Seneca was almost positive he’d killed her mother, Collette, as well. That he’d been so close to her, right in front of her face, taunting her—it made her blood sizzle in her veins.

She wanted to catch Brett. She needed to catch Brett. It felt like her life’s mission now. But Brett was like a phantom—he changed his looks as easily as he changed his name. Finding him was easier said then done. This past week, he’d resurfaced and put the group through their paces to find Chelsea Dawson, his latest victim…only to twist the scene to make it look like the Instagram-star Chelsea had kidnapped herself in order to gain more followers. Seneca and her friends had looked like fools when they tried to explain to the cops that Brett, who had been going by the name Gabriel Wilton around Avignon, was behind it all. It also didn’t help that Brett had staged a fiery car crash that killed “Gabriel.” Who knew who Gabriel actually was—not Brett, clearly, but an innocent person whose life didn’t deserve to be cut short by Brett’s vicious game. As far as the cops were concerned, Chelsea’s case was closed—and Seneca and her friends were liars.

And now here was Brett, teasing her again with this text. I win, you lose! Seneca pressed her nails into her palm, wanting to scream. Every day that passed, her desire to capture Brett turned more desperate. She needed to get this guy—for her mom, for his other victims, for herself, if only to ask him why. Why her mom? Why Helena? Why anyone?

She canvassed the lobby, wondering if Brett had been here, if they’d walked right past him at any point. This hotel had been their HQ, though now that Chelsea had been found, Seneca and the others planned to head back to their respective homes—Madison, Maddox, Thomas, and Aerin to Dexby, Connecticut, and Seneca to Annapolis, Maryland—and reconvene their search for Brett after a few days. The lobby had a cheerful tiki theme and was bustling with sunburned tourists. A group of raucous college-age boys drank tequila shots at the thatched-roof bar. Outside, a bunch of valets in Hawaiian-print shirts rushed to cars pulling up to the roundabout drive, and bellboys pushed carts of luggage through the automatic doors.

Seneca stared at the text again, her hands fluttering to the bare spot at her throat. She was so used to fiddling with her mother’s P-initial pendant, but Brett had burned it beyond recognition a few days ago. She felt so naked without it, as though she’d parted with a limb.

Why had Brett sent this message? Just to tease that he’d gotten away again…or for some other reason? His use of pronouns—us and we’re—felt like a clue. Did Brett have someone with him? His “sister,” Viola, maybe? She’d just found out that Brett called her “sis”—Amanda Iverson, Brett’s boss at the real estate company when Brett was posing as “Gabriel,” beach bum and Realtor-in-training, had clued her in. Seneca needed to find this Viola person. She’d already begun racking her brain, trying to figure out how they might be able to track her down. Only, why would Brett brag about Viola when, as far as Seneca knew, he wasn’t yet aware that she knew of Viola’s existence? It didn’t quite fit.

“Ready to go? Madison’s here.” Maddox pointed out his sister’s shiny dark hair by the elevators. She was dragging two giant, overloaded pink suitcases behind her. She’d changed into a neon floral minidress and cork-wedge sandals.

Seneca was about to tell Madison about Brett’s cryptic text, but Madison spoke first, holding up an iPad in a Louis Vuitton case. “Aerin forgot this. She still here?”

“She left to meet Thomas.” Seneca glanced at the front entrance. Thomas Grove was Aerin’s brand-new boyfriend and an ex-cop; he’d helped them hunt down Chelsea and Brett. This morning, he’d received news that his grandmother was in the hospital and that he needed to return to Dexby. Aerin insisted on going with him; Thomas was picking her up in the hotel driveway.

She dialed Aerin’s number, eager to talk to her for reasons beyond the left-behind iPad. She needed to clue everyone into this text, pronto—Brett’s words seemed more ominous with every passing second. Maybe Aerin or Thomas, with his police experience, would have some insight.

But the call went to voice mail. Seneca dialed Thomas next; he answered on the first ring. “Thomas? Put me on speaker. Aerin needs to hear this, too.”

“Oh.” Thomas sounded surprised. “Actually, I’m still about five minutes away.”

“Wait, what?” Seneca cocked her head, not understanding.

“I haven’t picked Aerin up yet. I got stuck in traffic. I shouldn’t be long, though.”

“Huh.” Seneca stuck her head out and peered around the hotel’s driveway, searching for Aerin’s silky white-blond hair, her long tanned legs, the black designer handbag looped over her elbow. She wasn’t there.

Seneca’s skin started to prickle. She looked at Maddox and Madison worriedly. “Thomas isn’t with Aerin,” she whispered. “And she’s not in the driveway, either.”

Maddox frowned. Madison’s eyes darted. “Maybe she’s in the bathroom?”

Seneca eyed the bathroom door across the lobby. She would have seen Aerin coming or going from there. She pressed the phone to her ear again. “Thomas, can you meet us inside? We’ll find Aerin. There’s something I need to show you.”

After she hung up, she dialed Aerin once more. Voice mail. A hot feeling was spreading across her stomach, but she tried to breathe steadily. This didn’t mean anything. There had to be an explanation.

She looked at the driveway again. Still no Aerin. She noticed a lanky young bellman standing by the valet stand. The guy seemed bored, leaning his head against the wall with his eyes closed. A shiny name tag read Hunter. He snapped to attention when she approached.

“Did a girl just pass by here?” Seneca asked. “Seventeen. Pretty. Blond hair. You wouldn’t have missed her.”

Madison showed Hunter a picture of Aerin from her phone. The kid’s lips curved into a suggestive smile. “Oh yeah. I saw her. She got into a car a couple minutes ago.”

Seneca felt a jolt. “What car?”

The kid tried to think. “I think it was white? A sedan?”

Seneca frowned. Thomas’s car was a white Ford sedan…but Aerin wasn’t with Thomas. Could it have been a cab? But the cabs around here all seemed to be standard taxicab yellow. “Where did she go? Did you see?”

“Toward the bridge, I think.” He nodded confidently. “Yep, definitely toward the bridge, because they cut off someone making the left. Really peeled out of here.”

Then Hunter became distracted with an SUV full of people that had just pulled into the drive. Seneca turned to Maddox and Madison. Alarm bells were going off in her head. By the look on Maddox’s face, she could tell that scared, paranoid thoughts were churning through his mind, too. That didn’t surprise her—she and Maddox had bonded long ago over private messages on the Case Not Closed site, confessing all kinds of things, weirdly in tune with one another’s thoughts.

Seneca called Thomas back. He picked up right away. “Who called you to tell you that your grandmother was in the hospital and that you needed to come home to Dexby?”

There was a pause. “My nana’s doctor,” Thomas said. “Why?”

“Have you ever spoken to him before? Like, do you know what his voice sounds like?”


“Seneca, what are you getting at?” Madison narrowed her eyes.

Seneca held up her finger in a wait-a-second gesture. “Thomas, call her doctor back. Ask if your nana’s really sick.”

Madison looked confused. “You think the doctor is lying?”

Maddox swore under his breath. Seneca looked at him; by his ashen expression, she could tell he was toying with the same theory she was. Brett’s text danced in her mind. Don’t bother looking for us. Could the us be…?

A dangerous scenario unfolded in her mind: Brett had posed as Thomas’s grandmother’s doctor and lied about her condition. Then he’d pulled up to the driveway in a car that looked exactly like Thomas’s and taken Aerin…while the rest of them were inside, mere feet away, unaware.

She pressed her phone to her ear. “Call him, Thomas. Please.”

“Okay,” Thomas said. “I’ll call you back. Or actually, I’ll see you in a couple minutes—I’ll be turning onto Sea Breeze soon.”

The call ended. Seneca shifted her weight from foot to foot. “Ten bucks says that doctor never called him,” she murmured. “Ten bucks it was Brett, disguising his voice.”

“What?” Madison asked, gaping. “Why?”

Wordlessly, Seneca showed her the text on her phone. Madison crowded in to look, and the color drained from her cheeks. “This is from…?” She trailed off in horror.

Seneca nodded.

“And you think he’s outta here…with Aerin?”

The pieces were starting to slide into place. Throughout the search for Chelsea, Seneca had questioned Brett’s every move. Why had he taken her specifically? Could he really have a vendetta against every woman who rejected him, or was there something else at play here? And why had he given them clues on how to find Chelsea…and, finally, why had he let Chelsea go? Brett was the kind of criminal who left no witnesses—he didn’t want his victims to tell anyone about him. And he had no interest in clemency.

“Guys, maybe Chelsea wasn’t Brett’s endgame,” she said in a choked voice. “Maybe Aerin is.”

Madison was trembling. “We have to call the police. Now.

Seneca peered into the hotel lobby. Maybe they should tell the management, too—they probably had a surveillance camera in the driveway and had caught Aerin getting into Brett’s car. But she didn’t see a single staff member anywhere. She stared at her cell phone, eagerly awaiting Thomas’s call back. Then, as she looked up, she caught sight of Thomas’s white Ford rounding the corner onto Sea Breeze Drive. Even from a distance, she could see the frightened, confused look on his face. He’d made that call, she knew. His nana wasn’t in the hospital. The doctor hadn’t told him to come home.

Brett had.

There was something strange about Thomas’s car, though. Thick black smoke poured from its tailpipe, obscuring the air behind it. Seneca knew nothing about car maintenance, but it didn’t seem good. The traffic light turned green, and Thomas hit the gas. The smoke billowed. A strange pop sounded. And suddenly, horrifyingly, the car burst into flames.

“Oh my God!” Seneca darted toward the automatic doors.

The air outside smelled like burning fuel. Flames leapt from ­Thomas’s hood. Most people were running away from the fire, but a few brave souls were running toward it. Seneca pressed her hand to her mouth as she reached the sidewalk. Thomas’s door had opened, and he tumbled out and crumpled to the ground.

“Thomas!” Seneca screamed, but he didn’t raise his head. Fear cut jaggedly through her. How had this happened? How could a car just explode?

Two men in volunteer fire jackets sprinted toward Thomas’s body. “Get back, get back!” they screamed at Seneca, Maddox, and Madison, who’d rushed up behind her. Seneca bit down hard on her fist.

A police officer had appeared and was starting to divert all traffic to a side road. The fire department arrived and sprayed the car down. Ambulance sirens wailed. Onlookers to Seneca’s left began to murmur. “Did anyone see what happened?” a woman asked.

“It just exploded!” someone else said. “Scared me half to death!”

“I’ve heard you can’t trust that model year,” a third voice murmured.

Seneca was starting to get woozy from the smoke. Was Thomas’s car just a lemon? But Thomas was a meticulous guy. She couldn’t imagine that he’d let important car maintenance go to the point where his vehicle would explode. Paranoia nagged at her. She clutched Maddox’s arm. “I don’t think this was an accident.”

Maddox and Madison nodded numbly. And just like that, Brett has cut our numbers to three, Seneca thought with dread. Of course he wiped out Thomas—as an ex-cop, he had a lot of resources to hunt Brett down. And he and Aerin had just started dating. Seneca couldn’t forget the dreamy looks Brett had given Aerin back in Dexby. He’d liked her. Maybe liked her a lot.

So Brett wanted Thomas out of the way, then. He wanted Aerin all to himself. And he wanted them never to be found.

“Okay, now we’re definitely telling the police.” Madison spotted a broad, squinty-eyed cop who’d appeared to direct traffic. She took a few shaky steps toward him, but then Seneca’s phone started to buzz. She looked down at the number, and her breath caught in her chest. Impossible. The person who had sent the Don’t look for us text was now calling.

“Wait, Madison.” She grasped her friend’s arm. “Don’t.”

Madison gave her a startled look. Maddox started to protest, but then Seneca showed them the phone’s screen. “It’s the same number as before. The same number that sent that text.”

Madison blinked. Maddox’s lips parted slightly. The phone kept ringing.

Answer it,” Maddox finally urged.

With a thumping heart, Seneca pressed the green phone icon, then put the call on speaker. “Long time no talk, my friends,” sang a familiar, haunting voice over the din of sirens.


BRETT GRADY, a name he’d gotten used to calling himself, kept his hands at ten and two on the steering wheel, his cell phone wedged between his ear and his shoulder. Years ago, when he’d taught himself to drive, he didn’t know how the phrase ten and two had leapt into his brain or how he’d known that it was the proper orientation for your hands. From his dad, maybe, when they used to ride go-karts? From a TV show? Still, he prided himself on always following the rules of the road to a T. Never speeding, never making crazy moves across lanes, always staying under the cops’ radar. He’d passed three patrol cars today already, but they hadn’t stopped him. Why would they? He was a model citizen. If those cops did notice Aerin’s limp form in the backseat, they probably just figured she was his girlfriend and had decided to take a nap.

He was tickled by this tableau and decided to run with it for the few moments it was taking for Seneca Frazier to mentally get her shit together on the other end of the phone line. If a cop did stop Brett, he would see Brett and Aerin as a couple on a long road trip. She’s my one and only, Brett would tell the officer, smiling sweetly at her passed-out form in the back. We finish each other’s sentences. We order for each other at restaurants. We’ve had tons of play-fights about songs on the radio, and I guess all that wore her out. And actually, Brett really did know all those things about Aerin. She wouldn’t want to listen to “Call Me Maybe” because it reminded her of her murdered sister, for instance. And if they stopped for pizza, she would like it plain, with barely any cheese.

See? He wouldn’t even have to fake it.

“Are you still there?” he finally asked Seneca. His phone had gone silent. Brett wasn’t surprised. Seneca was probably stunned that he’d called her directly.

There was some fumbling, and then Seneca came back on the line. “Yes. Wh-where are you? Is Aerin okay? And Thomas’s car exploded. That was you, wasn’t it?”

“So many questions.” Brett could picture Seneca, with her curls and determined eyes. She probably thought she was going to entrap him, make him slip up, which felt insulting. They knew each other so well by now—she should understand that he never made mistakes.

He’d already known about Thomas’s car accident. An app on his phone played the local police scanners; he’d heard the emergency call. Apparently, Thomas was still alive and had been taken to the hospital. Not the best outcome, but Brett hoped the injury was enough to scare the others. His nose wrinkled at the thought of that brawny, brainless interloper smiling at Aerin, touching Aerin, kissing Aerin…and Aerin kissing back. And also? Brett was the fifth person in their little sleuthing group. Thomas Grove couldn’t crime-solve his way out of a paper bag.

“Aerin’s great,” he said brightly, glancing at her in the backseat. She was slumped over, her head bent at an unnatural angle, a bubble of spittle at the corner of her mouth. Her skirt was hiked deliciously high on her thigh. “We’re having a really nice time together.”

“Let’s talk to her, then,” a new voice demanded.

Brett grinned. Maddox. He could just picture the guy standing next to Seneca, all coiled-up muscle and easy, jock-boy good looks. He was a little hurt by Maddox’s harsh tone—he’d been a great friend, the type of guy he could chill with while playing Resident Evil 7. He thought with a mix of fondness and sadness about how admiringly Maddox used to laugh at his jokes. “Uh, Aerin’s a bit indisposed at the moment,” he said. “But she’s good. Scout’s honor.”


  • "The most chilling book in the series... The stakes have been raised to a whole new level... Come to Last Seen for the conclusion of this sweeping mystery, but stay for who these characters have become, and who they're continuing to grow into."—Hypable
  • Accolades
    BookRiot: 125+ Upcoming YA Books You'll Want on Your October to December Radar, selection (2018)

On Sale
Nov 4, 2018
Page Count
304 pages

Sara Shepard

About the Author

Sara Shepard is the author of the Amateurs trilogy, as well as the New York Times bestselling series, Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game. Her duology The Perfectionists is now a TV show on Freeform. She graduated from NYU and has an MFA from Brooklyn College. Visit her online at @sarabooks on Twitter and Snapchat, and @saracshepard on Instagram.

Learn more about this author