Aussie Book Review: Already Dead by Jaye Ford

From the Cover

"Miranda shrank away from him, arm pressed to the driver's door. ‘What's your name?'

'I'm already dead. That's my name now. That's what they called me. I'm Already Dead.'

Journalist Miranda Jack is finally attempting to move on from the death of her husband by relocating up the coast with her young daughter, Zoe. Then a single event changes everything.

On a Monday afternoon as she waits at traffic lights, a stranger jumps into her car and points a gun at her chest.

Forced to drive at high speed up the motorway, Miranda listens to the frantic, paranoid rants of Brendan Walsh, a man who claims he's being chased and that they're both now running for their lives.

Two hours later her ordeal is over in the most shocking fashion. Miranda is safe but she can't simply walk away – not without knowing the truth about that terrifying drive.

As a journalist Miranda has always asked questions. But this time the questions are dangerous – and the answers might get her killed . . ."

Former Journalist Miranda Jack (aka Jax) is a widow with a young daughter. Still in the depths of grief after her husband, Nick, was killed in a hit and run accident twelve months before and, having put her career on hold, she has finally finished packing up their last bits and pieces and is on her way to Newcastle where her Aunt Tilda and Zoe await her so they can begin their new life in their new home.

Suddenly, the unthinkable happens when, whilst stopped at a traffic light in Wahroonga, a man climbs into her car with a gun pointed at her and tells her to drive.

Terrified of what might happen if she doesn’t obey him, she does what he asks but soon realises that he is fast losing touch with reality. Mumbling incoherently to himself while the gun never wavers too far from her, she tries to calm him down by telling stories in an attempt to build rapport with him and learns that his real name is Brendan Walsh and that he’s on the run!

As he vacillates between rage, delusion and mumbling, he begins to offer up bits and pieces of information such as the fact that he is married and has a son but that someone is following him and they won’t give up.

Two hours later, Jax’s terrifying thrill ride ends in the most horrific manner she has ever borne witness to and she thinks that her ordeal is over.  But all is not as it should be! Who was Brendan Walsh really? Why did he choose to get into her car?

As she finds herself being drawn deeper into the whys and wherefores of her traumatic experience with Brendan with a police investigation headed by Detective Aiden Hawke ensuing, she realises that her torment has only just begun! For Jax is about to discover an intricate web of deceit and murder, where nobody appears to be who she thought they were and her journalistic instincts will need to take a backseat. Who's side is Detective Hawke on? What does a recent murder of another journalist have to do with Brendan?

Will she have the courage to prove that she is a force to be reckoned with or can she count herself among those already dead!

As a lover of thrilling suspense, I  can’t believe that this was my first Jaye Ford novel and am still banging my head against the wall because I fear that my reading pile is going to topple right over once I add her previous three books to it!

In Already Dead, Jaye addresses the subject of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by taking an ordinary every day thirty-something woman and mother, who is trying to find herself in the aftermath of all the tragedy she has endured, putting her through paces that none of us would ever wish on our own worst enemy, initially with a man suffering from this debilitating condition and, thereafter, as a survivor, placing her in contact with those left behind, the questions, guilt, anger and consequences which could eventuate. Whilst she fictionalises events, based loosely on facts gained through her multitude of research, the possibilities are endless and we are given an admirable protagonist who, like anyone in her situation would be, is scared - of dying, of leaving her child an orphan, of not being able to ask questions, of not getting answers.

A recent interview with author Sara Foster had Jaye explaining that she had "seen a lot of media coverage about soldiers with PTSD and wanted to recognise some of the battles they face at home, as well as explore some of the issues within a crime setting". She further went on to say that she loves to "write about ordinary women thrust into danger who must find the strength of will to survive ... of the tough times in our lives and what it can take to dig deep enough." (full interview with Sara here)

Her writing is powerful, with her use of short sharp sentences conveying the urgency of her voice, so much so, that you can't help but keep turning the pages, as the third person narrative point of view effectively transports the reader into the mind of a woman who has been placed in a situation where she is no longer sure of what is real or imagined. And it doesn’t end there!

She continually ups the ante by throwing in other characters whose motives are questionable and, by revealing only a layer at a time the real circumstances surrounding the carjacking, she keeps the suspense taut as she makes Jax’s life (and ours) a living terror.

A person who suffers with mild anxiety myself (although far from the intense level of PTSD and anxiety portrayed in this novel), I’ve always been interested in reading about other people’s perspectives surrounding this severe affliction and the effects it has on those close to us. Jaye has revealed a bit more of it for me and, even though I was tucked up in my bed most nights while reading this novel, the hairs on my body stood on end as I surreptitiously checked that the blinds were closed and all the “what ifs” were never far from my thoughts.

My only quibble (and it’s not a quibble at all really) - the fact that Jax never did receive any closure on Nick’s death. But perhaps Jaye has something more in store for us on that front! At this stage, we can only hope.

All in all, an edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller with complex characters, fast-paced action and unrelenting suspense that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

I wish to thank Random House Australia for providing me with an ARC eGalley proof of this great novel.

A Little About the Author

Jaye Ford is the author of three chilling suspense novels, Beyond Fear, Scared Yet? and Blood Secret. Beyond Fear won Best Debut and Reader's Choice at the 2012 Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards. Under the name Janette Paul, she is also the author of the bestselling romantic comedy, Just Breathe (available in ebook only).

Jaye is a former news and sport journalist, with the unusual claim to fame of being the first female presenter of a live national sport show in Australia, hosting Sport Report on SBS in 1988-89. She also worked in public relations before turning to crime fiction.

She lives at Lake Macquarie in the NSW Hunter Valley.


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