I remember back to Mr. Sakey's first book, THE BLADE ITSELF. It was exciting. Along with Sean Chercover, Mr Sakey was new and very good. He wrote a lean thriller that was high on actual thrills and low on preposterous male testosterone fantasies. His characters where regular guys who were caught up in circumstance. One of the reasons Mr. Sakey's books have worked for me is that simple fact. He didn't write about bitter former FBI agents with a dizzying array of ways to kill me. But for a stupid decision here or careless remark there you could be a character in a Mr. Sakey's novel.
THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES is the latest from Mr. Sakey and it has stiff competition. His previous opus, THE AMATEURS, ranks as one of the few books I read in one sitting. To write that THE AMATEURS was engrossing is an understatement. So how does TWO DEATHS match up? Sadly, it is the lesser, and as I look back over Mr. Sakey's three other books I have to say it comes up short there as well.
Daniel wakes up on a beach in Maine. He is cold, wet and devoid of much of his memory. He pieces a few clues together. The car nearby is his, and with California plates he realizes he is far from home. He makes it back to California only to discover that he is suspect number one in the murder of his actress wife. Complicating the issue is a shadowy figure, Bennett, who is hellbent on discovering the whereabouts of a missing necklace, and assumes Daniel knows the location. A young women, Belinda, is also prowling around the periphery of both men while she hides a secret that will change everything.
That secret is revealed about two-thirds of the way through the book, and it does in fact change everything. The reveal is handled well, and when it does come it is a bit of shock. Mr. Sakey has always used these game changing moments to their fullest effect. They are a challenge to the reader's expectations. In this case, he literally gets to take the narrative of TWO DEATHS in another direction. And it works... for awhile.
The cause for concern here are the three main characters of TWO DEATHS. Daniel is, well, kind of douche. He is not particularly engaging, and comes off as a surface and shallow individual. The 'Every Man' quality that works for Mr. Sakey's lead characters is just flat-out missing here. Bennett is the kind of character that I have come to really dislike in thrillers. Every response, whether with words or a gun, is always so polished and practiced. Tens steps ahead of everyone and deathly boring because of it. Belinda is perhaps the most complex of the bunch. She has actual secrets, and until Mr. Sakey reveals them the passages with her are easily the best of the book. However, once her ultimate secret is given up, Belinda like Daniel and Bennett loses her reason for being.
I'll close by writing this. I still enjoyed this book a great deal. Mr. Sakey is an accomplished storyteller, and TWO DEATHS is no different. For me, the guts of this book did not work, but its construction is without question top notch, like clockwork. And as I explained to a friend, lesser Marcus Sakey is still better than most everyone else.