The Next Time I Die: Jason Starr

“This version of me has made some bad decisions.”

Author Jason Starr marks a change of pace with his new novel, Next Time I Die. Starr has an impressive number of crime novels under his belt, with everyday ordinary protagonists who are caught in a web of criminality and claustrophobic deceit. In this novel, lawyer Steven Blitz is preparing for the upcoming murder trial of Jeffrey Hammond. Hammond, an artist, is accused of murdering three men, and Blitz has constructed an insanity defense. As he chews over his statement, his wife, Laura, a sometimes violent manic-depressive now off her meds, announces she wants a divorce. Laura tells Steven to leave and he drives, in heavy snow, to his brother’s home.

Stopping at a gas station, Steven encounters a man and a young woman engaged in a possible domestic dispute. Steven intervenes, the man stabs Steven in the stomach, stuffs the girl in the car, and drives off leaving Steven bleeding heavily. As he passes out, he hears a voice, “I saw you, Steven Blitz.”

Steven wakes up in a hospital, but something is horribly wrong. His wife, Laura, a viper at the best of times, is loving, sweet and concerned, and Steven suddenly has a daughter. Disoriented, Steven tries to latch onto the world he knew before he was stabbed, but he soon learns that the world he is in has no coronavirus, 9/11 didn’t take place, major political figures don’t exist, and while Steven’s brother Brian visits, Brian’s life is totally different. Of course, by this time, an alternate reality seems the only possible explanation. Hospital staff chalk up Steven’s behaviour as the after effects of concussion.

When Steven is released and returns to his life, the new version that is, he finds that Hammond, the psycho he was representing is not accused of murder, and Steven decides that Hammond has not yet been caught. Steven notes, “the idea of a free Jeffery Hammond terrifies me,” and he starts digging into Hammond’s life. When Steven starts getting anonymous threatening texts, Steven’s paranoia ramps up to fever pitch. Gradually as Steven sinks into his new life, he realises that he’s not one of the good guys, but surely he can’t be as bad as that sociopath, Hammond, right? You know, the sociopath who chops up his victims.

As always with any Jason Starr book, The Next Time I Die is a page-turner. The author’s strength lies in his ability to create relatable characters who seem to be bludgeoned by the sort of everyday problems most of us have. Starr seems to like to create these connections between reader and protagonist but then just as we relate, it’s off down the rabbit hole. …

Review copy

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Filed under Fiction, posts, Starr Jason

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