Book Review: The Next to Die by Sophie Hannah

Publication Date: February 19th, 2019. Publisher: Harper Collins Canada

“It’s kind of obvious: when you hide, people seek, whereas when you talk about something that matters to you, no one listens. Ever. Thus is the main way in which human beings are reliable.”

the next to dieThis book starts out with promise with a world-weary comedian, Kim Tribbeck, waiting in the cancer ward for her grandmother to pass. However, when the story shifts over to the police procedural part of the book, the narrative becomes more plodding. It seems a serial killer, who the police have dubbed ‘Billy Dead Mates,’ is killing off pairs of best friends and leaving each body with a mysterious white book. The white book is what connects Kim to the case. She has been giving one of these books at a gig. Does that mean she is The Next To Die? Kim is a loner so it doesn’t seem to fit with Billy Dead Mates’ M.O. Or is there more to the story?

I have thoroughly enjoyed Sophie Hannah’s Hercule Poirot reboots, but this book left me wanting more. It isn’t that it is poorly written, by any means. It just lacks the oomph of her other books. The character of Kim Tribbeck was vivid and her storyline was captivating but the procedural aspects of this book dragged, in my opinion. Other than the main detectives in the story, I lost track of who all the police where and their brainstorming sessions were a tad dull.

“When I was five years old and still an optimist, my adoptive parents bought me a book called The Stone Doll of Sister Brute. It was about a girl who had nothing to love, so she gave a stone a name, pretended it was a person and determinedly loved it. That’s what I did with Liam.”

I do, however, admire Sophie Hannah’s willingness to play around with the narrative structure of her books. While Kim’s portions of the book were told in the first person, the police sections were third person. There were also newspaper articles, short stories, and emails to break up the narrative. It was the stories that Billy Dead Mates sends to the ultrafeminist reporter, Sondra Halliday, that I was tempted to skip. Themes in this book include misogyny, the importance of books, and the nature of friendship.

Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the ending of this book. I applaud the message, but it did not seem like a plausible motive for multiple murders. I’m curious to hear what you think if you decide to read this book. Please drop me a line in the comments section.

Thank you to Edelweiss and Harper Collins for providing me with an Advanced Reader Copy of this book.

Grade: C+/B-

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