BOOK REVIEW: A L Gaylin – If I Die Tonight

Paperback: 400 pages

Publisher: Century

ISBN-10: 1780896379

ISBN-13: 978-1780896373

24 August, 2017

Questions, questions and yet more questions. A L Gaylin with her latest – and, let’s be fair quite extraordinarily brilliant – outing If I Die Tonight, not only answers each and every one of them with consummate style, she also heightens the tension and makes the story one of enthralling energy that burns page after page.

There was a time when Jackie Reed knew her sons better than anyone. She used to be able to tell what they were thinking, feeling, if they were lying… But it’s as though every day, every minute even, she knows them a little less. Her boys aren’t boys anymore, they’re becoming men – men she’s not sure she recognises, men she’s not sure she can trust. So when one of her son’s classmates is killed in suspicious circumstances, people start asking questions. Was it really a hit and run? A car-jacking gone wrong? Or something much more sinister?

Alison Gaylin is unquestionably a superb story teller. Her tight grip on descriptive prose and dialogue are quite simply a joy to experience, time and time again. With her Detective Brenna Spector series developing into a tour de force, the stand alone work such as What Remains Of Me shows a burgeoning, blossoming beautiful talent that can rival – and outdo many of – her peers, who have been involved much longer in the crime fiction / thriller field and have become tired, clichéd and somewhat dreary.

Yet it is Gaylin’s character’s – their nuances, their asides, their reactions, their tics, tacs and toes – that really generate the energy that sets and A L / Alison Gaylin novel apart. Here, yes we have Jackie, Aade and her younger son Connor – each of whom is beautifully crafted – but, really, the jewel in this particular broth is Pearl Maze.

Nothing about this character (name aside) is usual, yet there’s nothing really that unusual about her either and therein lies her charm. A lonely, lonely woman indeed but nevertheless driven, forthright, compassionate and everything you wish there to be in a peripheral, main-line protagonist.

Sharp, witty, furiously paced and a insight into how social media condemns first then apologises much too late – if at all – If I Die Tonight is a total delight from first word to last and thereby cements A L Gaylin amongst the very best writers around.

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