The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey

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The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: This may start as a clichéd 'amnesiac discovers himself whilst fleeing' thriller but then, two-thirds in, it finds another gear and flies into a position of excellence. So ask yourself... are you feeling patient? If so it's well worth the wait and, indeed, the fourth star.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: July 2012
Publisher: Bantam Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0593069509

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A man struggles onto a deserted beach in Maine, United States, after almost drowning but, far from feeling relieved, he realises that something has been left behind – his memory. He finds an unlocked prestige car, a set of dry clothes that fit, some money, a gun and an urge to leave. (I know - if it had been a British beach, I'd have given it 5 minutes before it was empty and the wheels were off! Sorry... I digress...) So, driving to a local motel, he tries to find some glimmer of a past or an identity. The car belongs to a Daniel Hayes, so that's what he'll call himself for now. Then, by coincidence, it becomes more than that; it's becomes the name that the armed police yell as they surround his room. Can a man discover his past whilst outrunning his present? Someone is about to find out.

This is the fifth book from award winning American writer and TV presenter Marcus Sakey and one that reads as if it's destined to follow two of his previous books (No Turning Back and Good People) into the world of movies. In fact in some ways I can imagine The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes being a better film than it is a novel.

The idea of a near-drowned amnesiac being chased whilst he tries to piece together who or what he is and what he did isn't new. Take, for instance, Robert Ludlum's Bourne Identity. Therefore if you're going to venture onto well trodden ground, there needs to be something to raise the story above the routine. Nobody minds a cliché if they can forget it is a cliché. Unfortunately, for the first 60% or so Daniel Hayes drifts along at the level of 'predictable'.

Daniel Hayes is engaging enough as a character and so he's not to blame. Neither is the police detective, Roger Waters (yes, the Pink Floyd connection is brought up). He's a fascinating, complex character, adding to the twists at the end. I just wish we had seen more of him. He definitely deserves a novel of his own – he's witty, clever and has hidden depths that cry out for exploration. The baddie, Bannister, is the sort of guy who would be played by Jeremy Irons in the movie: nasty, devious and sadistic. He may be a bit two-dimensional but that doesn't matter if he can generate fear and anxiety and, believe me, he can. The problem is in another area entirely.

The first two-thirds are action packed on a movie scale, with car chases and nick-of-time escapes but, perhaps due to the surrounding predictability, I didn't feel the excitement... not at that stage anyway. We just know he's going to try to retrace his life through discovered addresses and that there are going to be police and baddies waiting but then it all changes.

Then the reader reaches the final third; a glorious psychological thriller steps from the cocoon of the mundane and soars towards fiction heaven. A big plot twist occurs (there's a big clue from the beginning of the book, but I shan't spoil it) and we not only begin to feel the excitement but we're shuffled to the edges of our seats as twists and revelations fall out of the novel like items from a teenager's wardrobe when it's opened too fast. For the first time I was as clueless as Hayes as convolutions occurred and the end hurtled into view. (By the time you reach the end, you also realise just how clever the novel's title is.)

The final third of The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes is, to quote Lee Child on the book blurb truly excellent. In fact it's the reason I intend to seek out Mr Sakey's back catalogue. For if he's able to write this sort of edgy, inspired excitement for 150 pages, discovering that he's sustained that for an entire novel would be like finding the holy grail of literature – something worth celebrating and, unlike the mythical holy grail, something that I'm sure exists.

I would like to thank Bantam Press for providing Bookbag with a copy of this book for review.

If you enjoyed this and like a good thriller, then we recommend Thriller 2: Stories You Just Can't Put Down by Clive Cussler (editor).

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Buy The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey at


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