‘A Gift For Dying’ by M. J. Arlidge ⭐⭐⭐.5

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She heard their screams. She felt their fear.

Now she’s their only hope….

Adam Brandt is a forensic psychologist, well used to dealing with the most deranged members of society.

But he’s never met anyone like Kassie.

The teenager claims to have a terrible gift – with one look in your eyes, she can see how and when you will die.

Obviously, Adam knows Kassie must be insane. But then a serial killer hits the city. And only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.

He just doesn’t realise how deadly his faith might prove..

Thank you to Penguin UK, Michael Joseph, NetGalley and M. J. Arlidge for the chance to read and review this book.

The Helen Grace series by this author is one of my all-time-favourite crime series so I was looking forward to reading this stand-alone novel. The synopsis sounded fascinating and the opening chapter had me absorbed as I read what Kassie saw in the face of the stranger she bumped into on the street. The vivid detail was haunting and you felt her terror at staring death in the face. I was now even more excited to read the rest of this novel.

Kassie hasn’t had an easy life. She lives with her mother in one of the less welcoming parts of Chicago, and it has been just the two of them ever since her father t when she was a young child. They don’t have an easy relationship, Kassie’s mother is cold, hard and unforgiving of her daughter’s transgressions and has no tolerance for her so-called gift. She sees it as an excuse by Kassie to be deceptive and get attention. With no friends the only person Kassie can turn to is her Grandmother. But she is in a nursing home diagnosed with dementia and unable to communicate. All Kassie wants is someone who believes and understands her. To not be alone.

After her collision with the man on the street Kassie chased after him to try and warn him about what she saw. But all that anyone else sees is a crazy girl screaming and grabbing at the man and she is arrested on suspicion of trying to mug him. Adam Brandt is called down to the Juvenile Detention Centre to administer the psychological evaluation that protocol dictates she is given. At first he thinks she is in the middle of a psychological breakdown but is intrigued when she claims to have been trying to warn the man about something.

When the stranger, Jacob Jones, turns up brutally butchered the next day Kassie is again brought in by Police for questioning. Adam interviews her and she confides her secret: she saw the man’s death. She goes on to explain how by looking in someone’s eyes she can foresee the day and manner they will die. Though he doesn’t believe it Adam also doesn’t believe Kassie is crazy. He takes her on as a patient, determined to understand this unusual teenager and her peculiar conviction that she can predict someone’s demise. But things are about to get even more bizarre when another person Kassie claims to have foreseen the imminent death of is found in the same manner as Jacob Jones. Is Kassie somehow involved in these murders? Or is her gift real and she truly is just trying to save them? And if Kassie isn’t involved then who is The Chicago Butcher?

Kassie is a complex character and was an interesting protagonist. She isn’t always likeable. She’s impulsive, headstrong and temperamental but also vulnerable and someone who tries to do the right thing. Unfortunately her lack of maturity and guidance mean she often ends up making things worse, usually for herself. For the majority of the book we are left to decide for ourselves if her gift is real or a charade and I went back and forth with my thoughts on this many times.

A Gift For Dying was a mysterious, intriguing, and thought-provoking book. Other than guessing who the next victim would be, I never really knew where the book was going and was taken by surprise with most of the twists and turns. There were times I gasped in horror at the gruesome and grisly murder descriptions, times my heart raced as the tension mounted, and times my heart broke. I did find that the pace was too slow at times and in the middle of the book I very nearly gave up on it as it wasn’t holding my interest and had lost momentum. Thankfully I persevered and it picked up again as the last part of the book was gripping with a shocking conclusion that I didn’t expect.

Out today.

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