4 out of 4 stars
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A Life Before is a mind-boggling crime novel written by Julien Ayotte.
Samantha Collins is a twenty-two-year-old elementary education student from Northeastern University in Boston. She has been having recurring and extremely disturbing nightmares about a woman being attacked since she was thirteen years old. Her parents sought for medical advice and Samantha attended a dream clinic. The doctor attributed the nightmares to something Samantha probably had read or from watching a television program and assured them that the nightmares would likely stop. They never did. Unbeknownst to Samantha and her family, a tragedy occurred in Boston shortly before she was born in New Jersey.
In 1989, personal injury lawyer Mike Strange took a case involving a wrongful death claim by a widow whose husband died of lung cancer. Suspiciously, eleven more people died of the same disease in a span of only five years. All of them lived in Rock Ridge Common Condominium Complex. After taking the case against the developer of the luxury condominium, Mike’s wife was shot to death and his paralegal nearly died in a car accident.
This is an interesting, intriguing and suspenseful book that will keep the readers glued on every page. It actually reminds me of the movie Erin Brockovich which I enjoyed a lot. Told in the third person perspective, the story is a mixture of crime, courtroom drama, a controversial religious concept and romance. The author begins by introducing the major players in the story and builds the suspense by alternating between the past and the present events. The strategy leads the readers to speculate and anticipate for all the pieces of the story to converge. Moreover, the author successfully keeps the book unpredictable until the last few pages.
Furthermore, both main and minor characters are well-developed making it easy to visualize them as real live persons. Dialogues are fitting for both the protagonists and the antagonists. I had a hard time choosing my favorite character between Bonnie Stevens, the smart, brave and endearing paralegal and Alex Brien, the understanding, loving and supportive boyfriend. In addition, though the courtroom scenes are not as intense as those of John Grisham’s novels, I enjoyed them a lot and the stake out, though not heart-stopping, was fun. Finally, though some readers may not agree with me, I find the ending quite liberating and therefore satisfying.
However, the narration told alternately between the past and the present may be confusing, or even frustrating, to other readers. Moreover, the subject of the story pertaining to a controversial religious concept may be frowned upon by skeptics. Personally, I took it as a very good choice of subject for fiction. It is interesting and intriguing and may lead some readers to research on the subject.
I, therefore, rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. It is well written, mind-boggling, intriguing and suspenseful. I recommend it to fans of crime, thriller and mystery novels. Violent scenes may not be suitable for very young readers while profound religious concept, court proceedings and references to radiation may be too ambiguous for young adult audience.
A Life Before
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