Marcus Sakey

Thomas & Mercer

July 18, 2017


How do you catch a killer if you’re already dead?

That’s the challenge that is presented in AFTERLIFE, the mind-bending new thriller from Marcus Sakey.

In AFTERLIFE, a serial killer has paralyzed the city of Chicago. There is no pattern to when or where the sniper will take his next victim. People in the city fear for their lives when they go to work or to the grocery store. 17 people have died in a short period of time and there’s no telling when number 18 will be next.

FBI agent Will Brody has been assigned to a task force working to identify this killer and bring him to justice. The task force is led by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Claire McCoy, who has her sights set on the FBI Director’s seat. Not only are they working together, but Brody and Claire have fallen madly in love. They must keep their feelings for each other a secret because the Bureau has strict rules against fraternizing. Unfortunately, both agents fall victim to the serial killer and that’s where the story really begins to take shape.

Brody and Claire find themselves in the afterlife. It is a replica of the living world except there is no electricity or anything that can produce fire. The lights are dark, and the automobiles and trains are stationary. Except when you aren’t looking at them. Turn around and the cars or trains will follow the path they are on in the world of the living. Take something out of the liquor cabinet, like a bottle of wine, and it will be replaced after you close the cabinet door.

People who have died tragic, untimely deaths populate the afterlife. However, it isn’t all rainbows and choirs of angels here. (Wouldn’t be much of a thriller if there wasn’t something dark about it, right?) Some of the deceased will attack others to gain more power after eating their souls. The residents of the afterlife have banded together in post-apocalyptic-like tribes to avoid attacks from these soul-eaters. Claire and Brody discover a connection between these soul-eaters and the serial killer they were chasing in life. They find they just might still have a chance to bring the man that killed them to justice in the afterlife.

In books like this, well laid out rules for this new world are important. If I’m to believe the work that is being created, then the boundaries of that world need to be defined and followed. Here Sakey clearly defines the rules of the afterlife (it looks like the world of the living, but without electricity or fire) and takes the story from there. Once he thinks you understand the afterlife, he adds in more layers and it pulls the reader in with each layer. These layers add depth to the world and makes the book even better.

With inventive worldbuilding complimenting a perfectly executed mystery, AFTERLIFE continues Sakey’s growth into the realm of science-fiction.  He is establishing himself as a pre-eminent science fiction thriller writer and I can’t wait to see what he creates next!

Kate Malmon