Book Review – What To Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French

What to do When Someone Dies is a mystery novel by the writing team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French. I needed a good read, something to sink my teeth into over the holiday and I hadn’t read a mystery novel in eons. My friend’s advice, “Ignore the title. It’s exciting.” So that’s what I did.

Ellie Faulkner’s world collapses when a police officer shows up at her door with news of a car crash. How do you move on when your husband and his alleged lover are killed? Convinced her husband, Greg wasn’t having an affair, Ellie sets out to prove everyone wrong. Who was this mystery woman in the car with him? The more she investigates, the more she is certain that their deaths were no accident.

It’s easy to be critical of someone’s work. My first thought was to list the less appealing aspects of the book. After all, a review needs to be honest. But it’s still just an opinion. It’s perhaps a matter of taste. I noticed this novel has 5 star reviews down to 1 star. Some enjoyed the building up of suspense over the first 200 pages while others felt it dragged on. I was caught by moments of intrigue but felt frustrated by the first person voice, never getting the point of view of other characters, as though the pendulum was stuck on one side.

On the other hand, the reader has all the power in the world while the book is cradled in their hands – the power to see what’s right about the story. Although Ellie’s actions seemed contrived, unbelievable at times, she was in a frame of mind that perhaps only those who have lost a close family member would understand. I welcomed the bizarre adventure that unfolded, finally gaining momentum in the final third of the book. Yet I walked away asking myself if Ellie’s character was likable. I’m still not sure. One important lesson that I have learned as a writer is that it helps if you like the main character. It helps a lot. Certainly she/he needs to be engaging. But something held this story together. Maybe it was the mundane that seeps into everyday life turning fiery. Maybe it was suspicion set against a backdrop of friends. Maybe it was the faith in her husband, the almighty thing called love, and my hope as a reader that loyalty can prevail. Or maybe it was the inner sleuth in me.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – What To Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French

  1. Aren’t book reviews more than “just an opinion” or “a matter of taste”? Don’t they also examine how a book is put together (point of view, time shifts, character development, style), whether the language is fresh or cliche, whether you can discern the author’s intent and whether the author succeeds in delivering it? Just my opinion!


  2. I agree. Book reviews are, indeed, much more when given attention to detail and perhaps unfairly reviewed when not. Thank you for this important reminder.


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