REVIEW: THE NEXT TO DIE, BY SOPHIE HANNAH

 

What if having a best friend could put you in the crosshairs of a killer?

A psychopath the police have dubbed “Billy Dead Mates” is targeting pairs of best friends, and killing them one by one. Before they die, each victim is given a small white book.

For months, detectives have failed to catch Billy, or figure out what the white books symbolize and why the killer leaves them behind. The police are on edge; the public in a panic. Then a woman, scared by what she’s seen on the news, comes forward. What she reveals shocks the investigators and adds another troubling layer to an already complex case.

Stand-up comedian Kim Tribbeck has one of Billy’s peculiar little books. A stranger gave it to her at a gig she did last year. Was the stranger Billy, and is he targeting her—or is it something more nefarious? Kim has no friends and trusts no one, so how—and why—could Billy Dead Mates want to target her? If it’s not her, then who will be the next to die?

 

My Thoughts: The Next to Die opens with letters between Susan Nordlein and someone named Inessa Hughes, regarding a book entitled Origami, written by Kim Tribbeck. We are left pondering the content of such a book…and then, in subsequent chapters, we follow the mystery of a serial killer dubbed Billy Dead Mates.

We go back and forth between Kim’s first person narrative and the activities of the various detectives: DC Simon Waterhouse, DC James Wing, and DI Giles Proust. Sergeant Charlie Zailer has her own obsessive pursuit involving her sister Liv, and ropes Kim into her quest.

Charlie and Simon are married to each other, featured regularly in the Spilling CID series, but one often wonders how two such seemingly incompatible individuals could be a pair. They each have obsessive qualities, but are otherwise an unlikely couple, in my opinion.

Why has the killer chosen these victims? What are the connections between them? Each detective pursues various angles, meeting occasionally with the rest of the team, at which time they are subjected to the sarcastic comments of DI Proust, who is often described as The Snowman. Cold, bitter, and without any leadership skills.

Slowly we come to sort through the clues along with the detectives, also wondering what to make of the motives and choices of the killer. Just as the seemingly unrelated victim pool begins to make sense, we are sidetracked onto other quests, namely Charlie’s pursuit of her sister’s secrets.

Even as we knew the killer’s identity a while before the end, a stunning gathering of interested parties came together at the end to hear the reasons for it all. And those reasons were almost too “out there” for the audience of relatively sane individuals. This interesting take on bookish life in the modern age earned 4 stars.***