Before You Die by Samantha Hayes

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Before You Die by Samantha Hayes

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Category: Crime
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: When a young man dies after driving a stolen bike into a tree, it's put down as another suicide and the local community holds its breath in case it's all going to start up again. Visiting D.I. Fisher isn't convinced though, she thinks there might be something more sinister a-foot. A decent crime read that will leave enough of a trail to keep you turning the pages.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 392 Date: April 2014
Publisher: Century
External links: [ Author's website]
ISBN: 9781780891507

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A stolen bike, a crash, a death.

Anywhere else it would be a catastrophic accident. Here, it's suicide. Another one. Please don't let it be starting all over again.

D.I. Lorraine Fisher is one of those rare creatures in modern detective fiction. She's normal. Married, with two daughters who she only partly understands, and a husband who she loves to bits, and not enough time to spend with any of them. She has a good career, because it's clearly what she was born to do. No quirks, no hang-ups, she's just good at her job, because she thinks like a copper – which means she doesn't give up at the first hurdle. When things nag at her, she lets them, until she can hear what it is they are trying to tell her.

Of course, even the most normal of us have families, not necessarily the family we'd have chosen, but who we choose to love regardless. In Fisher's case, it's a sister, who never quite stopped being wayward, but was the favoured child all-the-same. And a mother, who seems to be somewhat out of the picture these days.

Fisher is away on holiday. Not far away. Just a week at the sister's, in the rambling cottage she grew up in, and only had any share in the value of because her brother-in-law was an old-fashioned honourable gent. She loves him too, in a family kind of way. He's adopted her nephew in the full spirit of the role, if not in any legal form and the respect and love was reciprocated. Malcolm, however, has left.

And nephew Freddie is withdrawn, sulky and (even by the usual teenage standards) worryingly remote.

The area is recovering from a spate of suicides a couple of years ago. Although, the cluster seems to have played itself out, the grief has not. One family in particular seems to be unsure how to come back together.

Simon was one of those who died. His sister is planning to be a doctor, struggling to get the A-grades she needs, trying to befriend Freddie in between times. Freddie is missing his cues. Simon's father seems to be doing the strong male thing about it all, but his mother is barely keeping it together. She's giving herself a purpose by volunteering at a homeless shelter. Being busy. Being useful.

Meanwhile Gil lives in the tack room and draws his pictures.

Then – there's a burglary at the shelter. Something odd. And another death. A young boy, down on the railway.

Fisher is on holiday.

But she knows the local force.. has had a run-in of sorts, with one of the current D.I.s in the past…

It's not her patch.

But – it is her family.

There's no way she's going to be able to leave this alone.

Straight-forward old-fashioned police fiction – perfectly well executed.

We might wonder if one of the two stock characters could have been more finely drawn or the official approach to them more 'modern' and sensitive, but overall any shortcomings don't really detract from what is a decent enough crime read.

The action is plausible, mostly, the characters mostly likewise. The clues are there for the picking and leaving. It's the kind of book that has you wondering about the 'who' and the 'why', rather than the sort that keeps you in riveted suspense, but none the worse for that.

Hayes is at her best in looking at families acting amongst themselves, against themselves. Her domestic detail is sharp but never intrusive. Her stories aren't cosy crime though. Her deaths are brutal and bloody. And everyone has the potential to be sad enough to take their own life, or evil or angry enough to take someone else's.

If I have one serious gripe it is the epilogue. It merely confirms what most readers will have figured out before they got there, and those who don't would be better served by having the 'wondering' linger.

On the whole: nothing super-special, but entertaining enough to fill a holiday afternoon or two.

For more in the latest provincial criminality stakes check out Cold in Hand by John Harvey or why not go even further a-field up to the isles for Raven Black by Ann Cleeves.

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Buy Before You Die by Samantha Hayes at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Before You Die by Samantha Hayes at


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