Laurence is a young ex-sailor who can't resist the lure of the good life, and when he finds a job as chauffeur to the wealthy Mr and Mrs Bannister, his occasional work leaves him free to indulge. Bannister himself is bitter - his twisted leg keeps him on the sidelines while his ravishingly beautiful wife endures his moods with saintly patience. Or does she? It's the Bannisters' closest friend, Grisby, who starts stirring, getting Laurence to agree to a crazy plot. It will net him thousands, no strings attached. But is it all too easy?
Student Review by Samantha Green, Edinburgh University:
If I Die Before I Wake, by Sherwood King, is a book full of twists and turns, punctuated by gunshots and betrayals. It is a book in which the reader cannot know who to trust. The narrator, an ex-sailor turned chauffeur, becomes wrapped up in a murder plot between his boss and his boss’ partner. Laurence Planter is a dreamer, and all it takes is a small monetary offer for him to become irrevocably entrenched in the dealings of his employers. Simultaneously, he cannot get his mind off of his boss’ wife, Elsa, who is years too young for her husband and too beautiful by far. Enchanted by her, Laurence makes decisions that will affect the rest of his life.
While If I Die Before I Wake may use type characters, the beautiful femme fatale, the tough detective, it manages to mix them together in a new light. The plot is immensely clever, and from the first major twist onwards the reader is left guessing what comes next. The style of the book will also appeal; the narration makes the reader feel the hot summer sun and the refreshing sea, and one can sense the shadows and the fear. The narration is what is most unique about this book.
The reader is drawn in on the suspense, and the reader can feel the passion of Laurence Planter. So many books in the Noir genre are narrated by cynical men, jaded by all they’ve seen, but with Laurence, all the intrigue and murder is fresh and shocking. He is incredulous at where his life has taken him. This book is ideal for a fast-paced read, in fact most readers will probably have a hard time putting it down. One can bring the book down to the beach and let Sherwood King lead the way to the world of the filthy rich in Long Island.
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