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Jackie K. Cooper

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Sakey's Newest Suffers in Comparison to His Earlier Works

Posted: 06/13/11 05:19 PM ET

Marcus Sakey is a talented writer that America has not yet discovered, and it is about time they did. I discovered him when he wrote his third novel Good People. It was extraordinary. So was his fourth The Amateurs. These two books caused me to highly anticipate his new novel The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes. Sadly I was a little disappointed.

The new book is a good read but it does not reach the high bar set by some of his previous novels. It begins with a man waking up on a beach at night. He is naked and he doesn't recall who, when or why he got there or even where "there" is. He doesn't know his name, his past or his present.

Later when he begins to figure out where he is and who he is, he learns the police are looking for him. He also recognizes a girl on a TV show and she haunts him. Still there are huge gaps in his thought processes and he wonders if he will ever learn the who and what of his life.

It takes the book a few chapters before it ever moves into high gear. Up to that point the reader is intrigued but not involved. You will want to know who "Daniel Hayes" is but it will be more idle curiosity than compulsion. However at about the halfway point in the book things pick up and the Sakey style of storytelling comes to the fore. You do develop a compulsion to learn all the back story of this enigma, and you become aware of your involvement in the plot.

All is revealed at the end and there is even a strategic little twist that occurs which helps wrap things up. That is a nice touch. But then there is a final twist that doesn't work and leaves you wondering why it was added to the story. It helps set up a possible sequel but it is not necessary for the plot of this book.

Marcus Sakey is a terrific writer, and The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes is a good read. The problem is he is competing with his former works and in that comparison the new novel comes up short.