Today it is my great pleasure to be joining the blog tour for A Gift For Dying, the brand new standalone thriller from M.J. Arlidge. My thanks go to publishers Michael Joseph who provided an advance copy of the book for review. Here is what the book is all about:
The Bookish Bits
From The Sunday Times bestselling author of the Helen Grace series comes the gripping new thriller perfect for fans of James Patterson, Angela Marsons and Karin Slaughter.
With just one look, she knows how and when you will die . . .
Nothing surprises Adam Brandt anymore. As a forensic psychologist, he’s seen and heard everything.
That is, until he meets Kassie.
Because she claims to have a terrible gift – with she looks into your eyes, she can see when and how you will die.
Adam doesn’t believe her, obviously.
But then a serial killer starts wreaking havoc across the city, and only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.
Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.
He just doesn’t realise how dangerous this trust might be . . .
Available From: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Playstore | iTunes
When you pick up a book, a thriller, by M.J. Arlidge, you do so knowing two things – it is going to be full of action and intense plotting, and it is not going to be pretty. That is definitely the case with A Gift For Dying when a seemingly innocuous meeting – or rather clashing – of two random strangers, becomes the start of something quite dark and sinister. Teenager Kassie has the fright of her life when she looks into the eyes of the stranger who knocks her down and sees Death staring back at her … But it’s not what you think. Not at all.
From here on in the reader is drawn into a story which is as much about emotion, rejection, isolation and acceptance as it is about finding a brutal killer, and author MJ Arlidge keeps readers right on the edge of their seats from the very first chapter right to the book’s shocking, if inevitable, conclusion.
I love the way in which MJ Arlidge creates character. With teenager Kassie, you are faced with a prickly, almost unlikeable loner, not unlike a young Helen Grace if we’re being honest, but there is something about her which kept me intrigued. Made me want to learn more about her and why she reacted in such a violent way to the stranger.
Kassie is a girl with a gift, one which is completely out of her control and one which, even with the benefit of foresight, cannot prepare her for what is about to unfold in her life and the horrors she will see. She is young and misunderstood and just looking for someone who will listen to her. And in spite of her natural traits, including the tendency to push people away, you know that she is simply trying to do the right thing and to change a future that only she can understand. I felt for Kassie and the author has done a great job in making her a sympathetic character whilst giving her a determination and strength which surpasses the adults around her.
Adam, her assigned therapist, is naturally sceptical of Kassie’s gift and yet their paths are inextricably linked. He is quite an average character living an average life – or so it seems – but also the only real male role model in Kassie’s life. I can understand his reluctance to believe her, his desire to distance himself from her both from a personal and professional point of view. I warmed to him quite quickly though, and his own story was full of emotion and loss which was captured perfectly on the page. The simplicity of his life contrasted with the complexity of the case, and yet the loss that he suffered throughout the book was no less devastating than the brutal murders that occur.
It is quite a book when, half way through a series of mindless abductions and murders, it strips right back to a moment of almost stillness and crushing loss that elicits real emotion from the reader, but that is exactly what happens here. And you get a true sense of the isolation that Kassie feels when everyone around her abandons her. Towards the end of the novel there is a real feeling of resignation from her which may unsettle the reader as we know things that the characters don’t yet know.
The story is littered with various law enforcement officers as you would expect, the key character being Gabrielle Grey. She is naturally as sceptical of Kassie’s claims as anyone, figuring her to be an accomplice, not simply a bystander and it is easy to see why. Grey is strong, determined and focused, if a little tunnel visioned at times. Equally driven by duty and family, whilst she was often an antagonist to the two central characters, I still kind of liked her.
You get a clear sense of place when reading the book too. I don’t know Chicago at all, yet I could picture the scenes quite clearly as the action moved across the city, and could feel the way in which the different settings informed the action, and how the tension ramped up with the jarring clash between the forthcoming violence and the clean suburban lives that the victims had been living. When you consider the way in which the killer selected and studied their victims too, tapping into a very plausible and true to life situation, it may make you think long and hard about the manner in which you live your life.
This is a dark and tense thriller, which keeps the violence predominantly off the page whilst still painting a very clear picture of what occurred. Perhaps not quite as fast paced as some of the authors previous novels, it is still a book which compelled me to read onward. Taking a subject which defies rational explanation and building it into a believable and tight plot line shows the author’s skill in creating drama. This is going to be another big hit amongst his fans.
About the Author
M. J. Arlidge has worked in television for the last twenty years, specializing in high-end drama production, including prime-time crime serials Silent Witness, Torn, The Little House and, most recently, the hit ITV show Innocent. In 2015 his audiobook exclusive Six Degrees of Assassination was a number-one bestseller. His debut thriller, Eeny Meeny, was the UK’s bestselling crime debut of 2014. It was followed by the bestselling Pop Goes the Weasel, The Doll’s House, Liar Liar, Little Boy Blue, Hide and Seek and Love Me Not. Down to the Woods is the eighth DI Helen Grace thriller. In 2019 he published a standalone thriller, A Gift for Dying.
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