Has Daniel Hayes killed his wife? The question torments the amnesia victim who’s the protagonist of this fifth suspense novel from Sakey (The Blade Itself, 2007, etc.).
A naked man is crawling out of the icy ocean and up the deserted beach. He has no idea where he is or what happened. Then he spots a parked car, a silver BMW. There’s a recently fired Glock inside and an owner’s manual belonging to Daniel Hayes of Malibu; the name triggers no memories. He finds a motel and learns he’s in Maine. More questions. Why is he compelled to watch a cable show with pretty actresses? And why is a cop banging on his door? There’s nothing wrong with Daniel’s reflexes: In seconds he’s behind the wheel and out of there. It’s a gripping enough start. Daniel steals new plates and returns to Malibu. He learns he’s a screenwriter, married to one of those actresses, Laney Thayer, who died when her car was forced off the road. Daniel is a murder suspect. We meet other characters. Sophie, Daniel’s agent, is being threatened by an intruder called Bennett, who has questions about Daniel and a necklace. Bennett is the sketchily characterized heavy, a Mr. Cool, blackmailer par excellence. A taut scene between Daniel and Laney’s co-star ends with an enraged Daniel attacking him; could that same rage have led him to kill Lacey? Sakey lets the question hang, effectively. Elsewhere he is less convincing. Daniel is still driving his BMW with the stolen plates; the cops, after an unbelievably amateurish stakeout of Daniel’s house, pretty much disappear. A shocking plot twist at the heart of the novel further undermines credibility. It’s part of a one-two punch, the second punch only landing at the end. Dead bodies pile up; so do the improbabilities. It doesn’t help that this hard-boiled crime fiction has a disconcertingly soft center, typified by the Forrest Gump-like mantra, “Life is a raindrop.”