Dead Before Dying by Kerry Schafer ARC Review


Twisting and eerie, sharp and unforgettable, DEAD BEFORE DYING brings a heroine worthy of Sue Grafton to a terror worthy of Dean Koontz. In this supernatural thriller, shot through with biting wit, Maureen Keslyn checks herself in to Shadow Valley Manor to recuperate and rehabilitate from her last job. There, she runs afoul of the stern director and makes friends with some of the other residents, mostly older, all harboring either a secret or a grudge. With secrets of her own, like why she has her own Federal Agent checking up on her, and how she injured herself in the first place, Maureen fits right in, even as she sticks out like a thorn. But Shadow Valley isn’t just for rest—Maureen is working undercover, seeking to find and eradicate whatever forces are picking off the residents (and staff) at a grisly clip. With her resources dwindling one death at a time, and unnatural forces seething to rise up once more, Maureen’s experience fighting the supernatural will be her only hope to destroy a clever and powerful evil—and her only chance at surviving it. She’ll need people as paranoid as she is–from the sheriff, to the undertaker’s daughter, to a cook whose knife skills in the kitchen could prove deadly out of it—if she is going to bring rest to the weary, and peace to the dead…

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*

A wonderful mixture of mystery, horror, and humor, DEAD BEFORE DYING is a not-to-miss read.

The story is about Maureen, an older FBI agent who is recovering from serious injuries. She is asked to go undercover in an assisted living home, because residents are mysteriously dying.

The strengths of this novel like in its originality, continuity, and characterization. Maureen is unique as a heroine; I haven’t seen many heroines so physically hampered come out on top. I loved her vulnerability and her stubbornness.

Another excellent aspect of DEAD BEFORE DYING is the development of the mystery. Schafer cast suspicion on multiple characters and kept me guessing until the end.

The ending left room for the author to continue Maureen’s story, yet the main storyline was resolved nicely. No major cliffhangers.

I have a few criticisms that don’t affect my overall rating. One is that the present tense was used for flashbacks. To me it’s illogical. If it happened in the past, it should be written in past tense. That’s just my opinion.

Another criticism I had was the lack of geographical details. It wasn’t until the end of the book that it was clear to me that Shadow Valley was in Washington. I think the setting could have been developed more.

My final negative observation is regarding the FBI involvement. I didn’t understand how no one in the FBI cared where Maureen was or what she was doing. I got that it was a rogue assignment, but didn’t she have to report to anyone for regular assignments? Even if they thought she was still recovering, eventually she would have to report to someone. But, that concern never comes up. At the end, she’s worried about them coming for another person, but never considers this for herself. She mentions she doesn’t work for them anymore, but I don’t recall her resigning.

It’s possible I overlooked something that had been said in the novel that answers those questions. If I were to read it again. I might pick up on it. However, the fact that they weren’t apparent to me on the first read-through says something.

Nevertheless, those criticisms don’t affect my enjoyment enough to change my rating. DEAD BEFORE DYING is an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone who likes mysteries about supernatural or paranormal beings. The book comes out in two days. I strongly suggest checking it out!

Kerry Schafer writes fantasy with its teeth sunk into reality, mystery that delves into the paranormal, and women’s fiction that embraces the dark and twisty realms of humanity. The first two books of her Between trilogy (Between and Wakeworld) were published through Ace Books/Penguin. Due to the ever-shifting landscape of publishing, the concluding book of the trilogy – The Nothing – will be coming out as an Indie book, thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. Kerry’s Paranormal Mystery series, Dead Before Dying, was recently acquired by Diversion Books, and rumor has it she is currently working on a Women’s Fiction project, just to keep things interesting. (bio from Goodreads)

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