Before You Die by Samantha Hayes

Rushed and flawed…

😦 😦

before you dieWhen DI Lorraine Fisher goes for a visit to her sister, taking her younger daughter with her, it’s supposed to be a holiday. But this quiet little town in Warwickshire was the scene of a spate of teenage suicides a few years back and it looks like it’s all beginning again. And Lorraine’s nephew Freddy is showing all the signs of being one of the possible victims…

I really enjoyed Samantha Hayes’ Until You’re Mine, in which Lorraine first made her appearance. So it was a double disappointment to me to find that this one reads like a first draft. There are so many problems with it, it’s hard to know where to begin. Continuity issues – a girl removes her motorcycle helmet then slowly raises her hands to her head, finding it very painful to do so – one has to wonder what she removed her helmet with – her feet? Inaccuracies – a hospital doctor who keeps his patients’ notes on an unsecured home laptop? Hardly! Gaping holes – the teenager who hacks past a password control on a computer, with absolutely no indication of how he did it or where he might have acquired this skill. And the forensics people are clearly idiots – they fail to notice minor details like a supposed suicide victim having been given a kicking or that the handwriting on a note might not be that of the person who supposedly wrote it.

But all these flaws could have been dealt with by a proper edit. The real problem with the book lies in the much more serious matter of the characterisation. None of the characters rang true to me, with the possible exception of Lorraine. It was as if they were there purely to serve the plot and were only developed in so far as was necessary for that purpose. So for example, we never find out why the teenage bullying victim is being bullied or by whom – he just has to be bullied so that it is credible to think he might commit suicide. The local police are of course incompetent to allow Lorraine to have an excuse to butt in to the investigation. One character is made to appear so ridiculously over-the-top creepy it’s like watching the villain at a pantomime – I felt an urgent desire to shout ‘he’s behind you’ every time he appeared. And the obligatory autistic character, without whom no novel would be complete these days, is so badly written that he comes over as a cross between Boo Radley and Frankenstein’s monster (but without the charm). Again the problem with this character is that he is there to fit the plot rather than vice versa, so sometimes he has to be intelligent and sometimes he has to have the mind of a five-year-old; sometimes he has to be scary and bad, and other times he has to be loving and protective. It’s possible to have a character that contradictory, but only if it’s handled with a great deal of subtlety and sadly in this case it isn’t.

Samantha Hayes
Samantha Hayes

Add to these problems a plot that edges over the credulity line, and it’s hard to find much to recommend, I’m afraid. The whole thing reads as if it’s been rushed into print to capitalise on the success of Until You’re Mine, and as a result hasn’t had the polishing that could have turned this untidy and flawed book into something much, much better. The basic skills are all there, the detective is a likeable one, there’s some originality in the plotting, and because of these things I may read the author’s next book. But I will be sincerely hoping that a bit more time is taken, by author and publisher both, to ensure that it comes out in a more finished form.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Cornerstone.

PS A look at the covers suggests that either they’re really trying to duplicate Until You’re Mine or that they rushed so much they didn’t notice that they’d come up with effectively the same cover design.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

41 thoughts on “Before You Die by Samantha Hayes

  1. Oh, dear, sorry to hear this was a disappointment. I think you’re right: that the rush to publish something to capitalise on a past success leads to less-than-polished work. Let’s hope this will be a wake-up call that faster is not always better!

    • I hope so – I’ve seen a few people expressing disappointment with this one after enjoying the last one, so it seems a pretty bad marketing idea. Not only will sales of this one probably be affected by poor reviews, but people will be less likely to leap on the next one till they hear what other people think of it.

  2. Oh I am SOOOOOOOOO delighted that you are staying well away from the tempting pose, pointing me towards my TBR pile, and saying ‘build it higher!’ This is MARVELOUS . Mind you, I did look over at your ‘Posts I Like’ and promptly bought The Bookman’s Tale, from Bookishly Speaking, so I think you are still far from a temptation free zone.

    Just stay with the onesies and twosies, okay?

    • I’m glad my miserable reading disappointments are bringing you so much pleasure. *sobs bitterly and prepares wax doll of LF*

      Yes, I thought The Bookman’s Tale might be your kind of thing – more than mine. Glad you picked up on it…

      • You are a fantastic advertiser of good reads for any number of people, not just through your own book choices but through all the ‘oy – go and check out this other blog’. Bookman’s Tale arrived today. Unfortunately 4 books are due to arrive tomorrow from market place sellers, located either by reading interesting posts on blogs, or interesting reviews on Amazon.

        If you DON’T have shares in various publishing houses I think you could have a strong case for asking them to give you some, gratis!

        (Kind words in order to stop you with the pin sticking. Suggest you could knit yourself a box of chocolates and a nice woolly set of teeth to eat the woolly chocs with)

        • Hmm…I almost regret sticking those pins in now…sorry! Hopefully the agonising pains will wear off in time…

          But honestly apart from you almost no-one ever clicks through to any of the links. I’m seriously toying with stopping them – quite often the people I link to on TBR Thursday don’t even mention the link – I think some people must find it rude rather than complimentary. It only still exists ‘cos I haven’t been able to come up with something different! I might just post a different picture of Clooney every Thursday instead…

    • I can’t imagine I’ve enthused anyone about many books this week! Thank goodness the last couple of things I’ve read have been much more enjoyable – hopefully some slightly more enthusiastic reviews next week… 🙂

  3. *laughing lots* I loved this review! Stellar!

    The second paragraph had me chuckling, and then the Frankenstein monster. He has charm?

    I have to admit, though, the book title is awesome.

  4. I’m glad you were disappointed too, only because it validates my review. Unfortunately this author produces work of varying quality. She originally wrote under Sam Hayes and the debut was brilliant, book 2 good, book 3 suffered similar problems to this one in that the plot was current but the characters not fully developed. Back to Before You Die – did you think the motive a bit odd?

    • SPOLIER ALERT!! DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE BOOK YET!

      That’s a shame – you’d think her publisher/editor would be a bit more brutal about sending her back to the drawing-board when she’s slipping. I thought the motive was ridiculous – especially in this day and age. You could maybe have understood it 50 years ago, but not now. But even more ridiculous was the idea that the mother knew and yet went on staying with him! Sloppy! I really swithered over 1-star, because there was so little of it that I didn’t think was open to serious criticism. That the son watched a murder and didn’t go to the police? It all stretched credulity too much…

    • No, I think that’s wise! In fact, from what Cleo says she’s very variable, so I’m not sure whether I’ll be searching out too many of her books myself…

  5. Ah, that’s too bad the book didn’t really feel put together. I hate it when that happens.
    You may be right, trying to publish a second book in a rush is never ever a good thing, and that cover, I’ve see something similar with other books, it’s a visual trick meant to remind the readers of the first book. Quite unnecessary in my opinions but understandable to some extent, especially in today’s world when things are heavily based on the visual.

    • Yes, I can see how that could work, and I understand why for a series in particular the idea of a common theme in covers works well. But these two just look sooo similar and a bit bland really – neither of them summons up a feel for these books particularly – they could be the covers for just about any thriller over the last decade. But then I feel crime novels in general all look alike at the moment – there seems to be a sad lack of originality in the cover art for the genre unfortunately.

    • Yes, I’d find it hard to recommend it, and for once, most of the reviews I’ve seen have agreed with me more or less. Shame, because I really did enjoy her last book.

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