The women of crime fiction have already made quite a mark on 2018 and we are only a few months into the year. The trend is going to continue next week when Alison Gaylin releases her latest impressive stand-alone suspense novel, If I Die Tonight.
Crime fiction centered upon a car accident is hardly a game-changing idea on the surface – readers have seen that used as a device for entré into all sorts of nefarious situations – but when handled with the finesse of a writer of Alison Gaylin’s caliber, it can feel fresh and more importantly, intimate. The car accident in If I Die Tonight is not some global conspiracy chase sequence, nor is it a tense takedown of some high-level town thug; but rather it is a very personal experience that spirals out of control faster than a fender-bender on a rain-slicked country road.
If I Die Tonight starts with a Facebook post from one of the young residents of a small Hudson Valley town called Havenkill. That message begins: “By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.” The writer, Wade Reed, alludes to the fact that he knows the truth about something and therein the reader is hooked.
The “something” involves a car-jacking/hit-and-run accident that took place on the dark streets outside of town. As readers learn more and more details of this episode, a fuller picture begins to emerge. This is one of those books where saying much more ventures too close to spoiler territory.
Alison Gaylin has long been a successful documenter of our modern lives – and the effects it can have on the individual. In If I Die Tonight, Gaylin turns her sites to social media and the ways of contemporary communication. Seeing how the various social media and online activities of these characters affect the story will give modern readers pause as they reflect on their own lives.
Celebrity is another recurring theme in Alison Gaylin’s work and that is again present in If I Die Tonight. One of the people involved in the accident case is a woman with a fair bit of past notoriety. In addition to that, the online fervor over the incident sends some into “hero-dom,” while others are relegated to playing the villain. But how can we be sure these designations are accurate?
If I Die Tonight is told from various viewpoints, providing readers with a well-rounded idea of the town, its inhabitants, and the night in question. And yet, it is the one viewpoint that readers are not provided – Wade’s – that has the strongest effect. The inaccessibility of Wade’s mindset echoes the struggles parents of teens face every day. As the novel progresses, two entities come to the forefront (family and police) in a struggle to uncover the truth of what happened that night; but can the truth ever be known when everyone has something to hide?
Alison Gaylin has written one of the most addictive novels of the season. Readers are sure to find it impossible to set If I Die Tonight down once begun, but it is the lingering effects of this powerful tale that will resonate the longest.
Disclaimer: A print galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.