What a delightful read this was! Before I Die offers such a fresh and original perspective, bringing a very unexpected character as a protagonist. Most of the times, when an old person is the main character of a book, the action takes place somewhere in the past, developing mostly from the memories, when that character was young, strong and adventurous. That’s not the case in Before I Die, where Maureen is an old teacher with zero special detective abilities, with no special training to deal with crazy or wicked people and with nothing more than an ordinary life for a person of her age.
Moreover, her age starts becoming a disadvantage since people around her are beginning to doubt her mental capacity. So much actually, that at some point, Maureen herself begins to wonder if her intuition is correct or if she’s imagining everything. So when Maureen gets tangled in the spiderweb of what seems to be an absolute evil caretaker, she’s clearly completely unprepared for such a fight. And her one and only ally? A homeless drug addict…
The mystery/crime fiction has brought before older characters that play the role of the detective. Mostly amateurs with some kind of experience or retired police officers or private investigators. But it’s the first time when I’m encountering such an innocent and “unqualified” protagonist for such a story. And the author does an amazing job on illustrating how difficult it is for an absolutely common person to be put in a situation where she has to deal with a diabolical villain.
I’m also in an awe regarding Maureen’s new friend, Michael. A typical drug addict: zero self control, questionable morality, falling for every impulsive need, totally unreliable. There’s little to nothing to like about him. But somehow, his devotion for the old, kind Maureen, mixed with his own survival instinct is enough to start pushing him to the right path and to make the reader grow more and more sympathy towards him. The blooming friendship between such opposite personalities is contoured in realistic shades, with ups and downs, with doubts, fears and disappointments, but ends up being one of the sweetest aspects of the book.
The action is well balanced, with enough suspense to keep you hooked but without being rushed. Perhaps not completely surprising, but definitely well enough written and entertaining.
I enjoyed each page, each turn of the action and can’t wait to try some other books of Jackie Morrissey.