The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes
Review: A man regains consciousness on the shore of a Maine beach, only to realize he has no memory of how he got there — indeed, even who he is — in The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes, a novel of suspense by Marcus Sakey.
The insurance card in a nearby unlocked BMW says its owner is one Daniel Hayes of Malibu, California. Assuming that he is the owner, the man begins a cross-country trek … but not before hearing on the news that the police are looking for missing television screenwriter Daniel Hayes, whose wife's car plunged over a cliff into the Pacific in a suspicious accident. Back on the west coast, Daniel — for it is he — tries to put the pieces of his puzzled mind back together while keeping one step ahead of the authorities … and a mysterious man and woman who are, separately, also looking for him.
The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes is one of those books where it's hard, maybe impossible, to say much about it without revealing a few key plot points. So fair warning … while there are no overt spoilers in this review, some readers may make inferences that turn out to be correct.
Much of the suspense generated by the narrative comes from Daniel believing that he has experienced a recent traumatic event that has caused him to block his memory of the past. True, his wife is dead and he's wanted in connection with the accident that claimed her life, but something in the back of his — and, by extension, the reader's — mind makes him think that there's more to it. As Daniel recovers some of his memory, largely by working backwards in time, the present is moving forward. This contrast in time frames, and how he fits one into the other, is quite effective in keeping the tension level high.
There are, however, a few contrived story elements that diminish the book's overall impact from a suspense perspective. Few readers, for example, are likely to be surprised by the identity twist in the book; that it plays out as long as it does is a little disappointing as, once revealed, the storyline is actually strengthened with the introduction of a contextually more appropriate mystery subplot. The embedded sections that are structured as pages from screenplays are also a bit manipulative, but admittedly do fit in with the overall sense that Daniel, as a professional screenwriter, is trying to recover his memory by writing — rewriting, as it were — his perception of his life. And given how creatively imagined and strongly developed the overarching plot is, it's all the more surprising how weak the conclusion is.
Still, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes is a solidly written, enjoyable thriller, its only fault being that it is occasionally overplotted, trying to be far more clever than it needs to be to surprise the reader.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes for this review.
Review Copyright © 2011 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Thomas & Mercer (Trade Paperback), June 2011
ISBN-13: 9781611099690; ISBN-10: 1611099692
Location(s) referenced in The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes: Los Angeles, California
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The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey
Publication Date: June 2011
List Price: $25.95
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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