3 out of 4 stars
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Death Never Says Goodbye is a fast-paced novel in which John Worsley Simpson ingeniously combines elements of the thriller and crime fiction genres. Essentially a book about a woman’s disappearance, it quickly qualifies for an addictive type of reading since you cannot stop turning the pages to find out what really happened to her. A completely unpredictable twist halfway through the book makes you question everything you previously believed and sets the scene for an even more unexpected development of the plot.
On March 27, Liam Hudson goes to the police station to report that his wife Rebecca has vanished without a trace from the Bennett Mall in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville, New York. A reticent sergeant wonders if she has not simply walked out on Liam. However, the latter is convinced she must have been abducted because they are newlyweds and madly in love with each other.
A frantic husband starts his own investigation on the disappearance of the woman he proposed to on the fourth day of their relationship. He soon realizes how little he actually knows about his wife. As owner of Medic-Right, a medical-equipment supply company, Liam discovers that Rebecca also worked for a successful drug company in Cleveland. He hopes that his meeting with Carl Gleason, the director of human relations at Dexter Pharmaceuticals will answer many of his questions about Rebecca’s past. Contacted by Deputy Marshals from the Witness Security Program and chased by the Russian mob, the American businessman needs to make use of his Navy Seal training in order to survive and get to the bottom of the whole affair.
What I liked most about this novel is the way the author skillfully plays with the readers’ expectations. Rebecca and Liam’s story abounds in lots of action and suspense. When millions of dollars are at stake, everything moves on to the next level. Pigmented with all sorts of lies and tricks, the book reveals the chilling side of the Big Pharma industry whose major players would stop at nothing for huge profits. Flashbacks set a few months, days, or hours prior to the main events constantly thwart the readers’ suppositions about the characters’ intentions.
Although the narrative perspective mostly focuses on Liam, it also changes and builds interesting background stories for other characters like Rebecca, Deputy Marshal Tony Reynolds, Carl Gleason, Howard Dexter, or Alexei Fyodorov. Liam Hudson is not a detective per se, but his wisecracking, tough attitude is reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s famous private eye, Philip Marlowe. Unwillingly caught in a deadly game, he proves extremely resourceful and does not shy away from violence to settle the score in his favor. The same as Marlowe, he firstly gives the impression that he could be fooled by the machinations of the so-called “femmes fatales.” In time, he needs to figure out whether Rebecca is a highly manipulative and calculated woman or a victim of the circumstances.
John Worsley Simpson manages to keep his readers tuned in for various reasons. I particularly enjoyed his attention to details reflected by his minute descriptions of minor characters or the intertextual references to well-known books and movies. For example, the verbal exchanges between Liam and security guard Beavis or Sergeant Grippano are plainly hilarious: “I’ve called home. I’ve called her cellphone. No answer.” Beavis leaned back, putting his hands behind his head. “Well, I don’t know. I guess maybe you should call the cops. I don’t know.” (p. 2) In another scene, Gleason reminds Hudson of “a duplicitous Jack Nicholson.” (p. 99) Afraid for his life, Gleason himself wonders if he will have “to live like a Conrad character deep in some bug-infested jungle, starting at every twig twist?” (p. 221)
I am recommending this novel to fans of hard-boiled crime fiction. The use of profane language makes it unsuitable for a younger audience. There are no explicitly sexual scenes; the violence ones fit the storyline and are not gruesome at all. I am rating Death Never Says Goodbye 3 out of 4 stars because of the editing errors and the much too sudden ending. Another round of proofreading could fix the less than 20 punctuation and grammar mistakes which I have noticed. As far as the ending is concerned, I was a bit disappointed as it came too abruptly and lacked the elaboration the author got me used to throughout the novel. Others might enjoy it, though, especially considering that it is in tune with the title. Due to the overall favorable impression of the author’s style, I would like to try some of the other crime fiction novels written by John Worsley Simpson.
Death Never Says Goodbye
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