Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by, Marcus Sakey

Who are you when you don't remember who you are?

A man wakes up naked, wet, and frozen half to death on a deserted beach with no memory of where he is or who he is. He stumbles into a nearby BMW where he finds clothes that fit, a registration card for a Daniel Hayes, and a gun. Is he Daniel Hayes? Who is Daniel Hayes? Why is he here and why can’t he remember anything?

Since his debut novel (2007’s The Blade Itself), Marcus Sakey has shown a preternatural knack of developing well-crafted stories based on provocative “what if” scenarios. He’s thought his way over every angle and down every alley and created a number of rich, impeccably crafted novels. What if you’ve renounced a life of crime, but your old running buddy comes back into your life (The Blade Itself)? What if you survive Iraq but your brother is killed as soon as you get home (At City’s Edge)? What if the man you’re renting a room to dies and leaves several thousand dollars behind (Good People)? With The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes, Sakey has created another terrific hook and written what may be his best novel.

It’s difficult to talk about Hayes without giving away spoilers, and this is a novel where unraveling the mystery is half the fun. We piece together Daniel’s life as he does (we find out he’s a television writer) and follow the investigation into the death of a rising television star; a death where Daniel is the prime suspect.

In the grand noir tradition, Hayes is about choices made and the consequences of those choices. Past choices lead Daniel to where he was at the start of the book, but is his slate wiped clean because of his amnesia? Can he start over and be a better man now that his perspective is changed?

In addition to being a novel about choices, there’s also a great love story. On alternate pages, Sakey will make your pulse pound and your heart break. Marcus Sakey is one of the few authors whose praises I sing to everyone I meet.

Very highly recommended.

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