It's been some time since we last heard from Marcus Sakey, but THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES makes it more than worth the wait. I first heard Sakey discuss this book in the most general of terms during a signing appearance almost two years ago. He talked about the puzzling beginning, which is intriguing, to say the least. It stuck with me over these many months, and I wondered how he would ever write himself out of the corner into which he seemingly paints himself at the beginning of the book. The answer: amazingly well, indeed.
This book is a cat and mouse thriller, full of surprises that keep coming right up to the last page and will keep you up reading all night.
THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES begins with a gentleman regaining consciousness to find himself naked near the shore of some very deep water. He has no memory of anything; everything he learns about himself, from who he is to where he is, he acquires in piecemeal fashion. He finds a car that is just familiar enough that it might be his, and learns from the automobile registration that he is Daniel Hayes of Malibu, California. The ocean and the rising sun tell him that he is on the east coast, though how he came to be there he has not a clue. Other things slowly come back to him --- some by way of memory, others by dramatic occasion, including the fact that he is wanted by the police.
Daniel makes his way back to California, where he all too soon learns that he is a person of interest in the murder of his wife, who was an actress in a highly rated television show. That all ended when her car went off a cliff under very suspicious circumstances. Daniel did a disappearing act immediately thereafter --- not the sort of thing that someone who is innocent and clear of conscience normally does. This sets the police after him, but there is someone else after Daniel as well --- someone who wants something Daniel has. And poor Daniel has no idea what that something is.
This book is a cat and mouse thriller, full of surprises that keep coming right up to the last page and will keep you up reading all night. It will also resonate hugely with that portion of the reading audience who will identify with the subplot, concerning what transpires when something one does in a weak and possibly stupid moment comes back years later to take a dark and deep nibble out of one's posterior. That happens at one point or another to just about everyone, doesn't it?
And then there is a character named Bennett. You don't want to know this guy. In the real world you wouldn't even want to know about Bennett, because if you did, he would know about you, too. Bennett is relentless, and he is not going to leave Daniel in peace. He plans to, but not in a way that Daniel will like. In the meantime, Daniel is in for the three or four surprises of his life, if he can live long enough to find out about them.
The first 40 pages or so are best appreciated in light of the last third of the book. If you find yourself a bit frustrated, keep reading. You will quickly reach a point where you will be unable and unwilling to stop. In fact, you will be unhappy when it concludes, not because the ending is disappointing (it's not), but because it's not twice as long. For me, THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES may have supplanted GOOD PEOPLE as my favorite book of Sakey's to date, which is why I am strongly recommending it. So there!
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on June 14, 2011