In the cleverly titled I know When You’re Going to Die, Michael J Bowler begins with a fascinating premise and delivers a taut and unpredictable tale. I raced through it.
What I liked best:
- The concept of needing to solve a murder before it happens is an interesting one. I’ve seen it elsewhere in science fiction, but the idea of having a “superpower” to know when others will die is unique, as far as I know, and the whole idea of solving a crime to prevent it is well executed here.
- The pacing is perfect. The suspense builds throughout the story and Bowler keeps the reader turning the pages without overloading or exhausting them.
- Leo, Bowler’s clinically shy good-guy protagonist, is a hero for all. Seriously, if you can’t cheer this guy on, consider seeking professional help.
- It’s a genre crime novel, so the reader knows the mystery will be solved just in time, but the ending is sufficiently convoluted and unexpected. It feels worth the wait.
- The underlying messages of friendship, tolerance and kindness are a refreshing bonus.
What I liked least:
I enjoyed this book a lot, and I think my minor issues with it stem from it being a young adult novel, one in which all of the protagonists are high school students. So, my recommendation comes with the caveat that the reader should not expect the story to go outside the scope of a young adult novel.
- I felt too many of the adult characters were not well-fleshed out. For example, the story included not one, but three moms who cared little about their teenage children. Hard for me to believe, but maybe not so hard for a teen-aged reader.
- The complicated relationship between close same-gender friends during the teen years and early sexual attraction and exploration is central to the story, and yet the author shies away from resolving issues. Again, I suspect the young age of the intended audience is the reason, so I gave him a pass on this one.
- The premise behind the plot brings up major philosophical questions about predetermination, death and even cause and effect. I’d have loved to see some of this stuff tackled … but again…..
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime story, or a good superhero story. You absolutely have to read it if you enjoy both.
For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see I Know When You’re Going To Die.