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The Next to Die


The Next to Die

Originally released in the U.K. as THE NARROW BED, British author Sophie Hannah has penned the latest entry in her stellar Zailer and Waterhouse series with the U.S. release of THE NEXT TO DIE. I love the fact that other members of the investigative team get an opportunity to step up and play a more vital role in the case of Billy Dead Mates --- a serial killer who targets pairs of victims, specifically best friends. Never has being a BFF been more dangerous!

Hannah’s writing style is to be admired. She never has to infuse her narrative with shocks for effect, and her prose is often challenging and very character-driven. She has become the master of the denouement. This is readily evident in the three Hercule Poirot novels she has penned --- with the approval of Dame Agatha Christie's estate --- and is quite apparent in THE NEXT TO DIE. In fact, without revealing too much, the resolution of this murder mystery involves the state of books themselves, and the killer shares an opinion very much in line with my own on this subject.

"THE NEXT TO DIE will keep readers in suspense throughout, and it is impossible not to be enthralled by the many complex characters presented here."

The narrative is not dumped on you in short chapters with random red herrings and mini-cliffhangers sprinkled in for effect. Rather, it pieces together a tale in chronological order that involves the police investigation, online articles from the publication Lifeworld penned by Sondra Halliday, and the diary-style story “Origami” written by stand-up comedienne Kim Tribbeck. Kim also represents the moral center of the novel, and her witty and incisive writing as depicted in “Origami” reveals much about both her and the serial killer investigation involving Billy Dead Mates.

Sondra feels that the moniker for the serial killer is poorly chosen and blames the shortsighted police force for this. The police have picked up on a major clue: every victim was given a little white book prior to his or her death. These books contain what appear to be random lines of poetry, but the denouement will reveal that they have been precisely chosen by the killer. Kim received a little white book of her own at one of her stand-up appearances; in it was a brief quote that included the phrase “Every bed is narrow.” At the time, Kim could not make out why those words had meaning for her, but it would eat away at her as if she needed to decipher the riddle in an effort to save her life and prevent herself from becoming the next intended victim.

Kim voluntarily works with the police during the case. Being a comic and natural wit, she even sends them a list entitled KIM TRIBBECK - EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW IF SHE'S HEADING YOUR WAY. Officer Gibbs, in particular, takes this to heart and finds much of what she included in her numbered list to be quite accurate to the actual Kim. During the investigation, many paths lead to dead ends, and names that are followed up on sometimes reveal themselves to be invented personas. One name that starts coming up again and again is Faith Kendall, but no one knows who she is or if that is even her real name. Not to mention the fact that consideration of a woman being behind a rash of serial killings is way outside the typical profile for this type of killer --- especially since most of the victims are female and were brutally murdered in a way that would signify someone who hated women.

THE NEXT TO DIE will keep readers in suspense throughout, and it is impossible not to be enthralled by the many complex characters presented here. The killer is eventually revealed well before the conclusion, allowing Hannah to present her big reveal, which definitely harkens back to a Hercule Poirot moment. Don’t miss this intelligent and engaging novel from a true master of the psychological thriller.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on February 12, 2019

The Next to Die
by Sophie Hannah