THE TWO DEATHS OF DANIEL HAYES by Marcus Sakey

Book Quote:

“Over the last week, if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you’re only who you choose to be. Every moment. The past is gone. Memories are no more solid than dreams. The only real thing, the only true thing, is the present. That’s it.”

“So the things we’ve done don’t count?”

“Of course they do. But we can decide how much. And we can decide what we want the present to be like. We can live it however we want. Own every minute. Be the person we want to be.”

Book Review:

Review by Katherine Petersen  AUG 6, 2011)

A man wakes up, naked, shivering and alone on a desolate beach. He has no idea who he is or why he’s there. He and the reader gradually get clues: he’s Daniel Hayes; he lives in Los Angeles; he’s in northern Maine; and the cops want him, but he doesn’t know why. So begins a new mystery from Marcus Sakey, known for the Blade Itself and The Amateurs. Determined to confirm his identity and find out why he traveled cross-country in a drunk, drug-induced haze, Hayes re-traces he cross-country journey to Los Angeles.

At the same time, in Los Angeles, a woman changes her identity numerous times, stealing a gun and searching in bars for Hayes. Another man, with evil intent it seems—he’s described by one character as a cockroach who crawls in and out of everyone’s dark places–startles Hayes’s lawyer while in the shower, also in search of the elusive Hayes. These three characters will come together at some point, but to say more will give away much of Sakey’s story which twists and turns much like driving the hairpins of a high mountain road.

Sakey’s story is much more than a mystery though. He uses Daniel, and his dissociative fugue, to launch a literary discussion of memory, identity and self. What is memory’s role in self? Do memories make a person? Can you concoct a self from putting together memories?

Rarely in a story are the reader and the main character learning and piecing together information simultaneously. Learning along with Hayes is part of what makes this novel fascinating, along with the mystery of course. Sakey also uses alternating viewpoints to give different perspectives and give us information about other characters. This method works in this novel, but what doesn’t, at least for me, is when Sakey switches from traditional narrative style to a screenplay style. We learn Hayes is a screenwriter, but this change in style stopped the story for me rather than being an ingenious style shift.

Sakey begins the story with short, choppy sentences that mimic the panic that Hayes feels when he initially comes out of the water. In other places, Sakey has a lyrical prose style, making the reader want to read slowly to savor the language as much as the ideas. His vivid descriptions bring places and situations to life, like the first time he looks in the mirror hoping that seeing himself will free his memory.

“No fog parted. No veil lifted. The man in the mirror offered no answers.

He looked exhausted, bruised and worn and dark-circled, but more or less familiar.  For a vertiginous moment, Daniel lost track of which was him and which was the reflection, like one was a doppleganger that could break free and act independently, as he seemed to have snapped from his life.”

Sakey excels at character development, but he also succeeds with dialogue and showing rather than telling about the relationships between his characters. They’re all so intertwined to give an example would ruin parts of the story. While I can’t tell you why the title of the book is appropriate, trust me that it is. For those who appreciate a literary mystery topped with much to think about regarding self, identity and memory, Sakey’s tale will fit the bill. He has surprises in store, and it’s a wild ride.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 38 readers
PUBLISHER: Dutton Adult (June 9, 2011)
REVIEWER: Katherine Petersen
AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK? YES! Start Reading Now!
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Marcus Sakey
EXTRAS: Excerpt
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August 6, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Mystery/Suspense

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