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Rumors of Her Death by J. M. Donellan

A roller coaster of a ride! Different from your average psychological thriller, Rumors of Her Death delves into the mind of a man haunted by grief and guilt he can’t escape. To make his existence more miserable are the bad guys who won’t allow him to break free from his criminal lifestyle.

I was hooked from the first page as Leach wakes in the hospital, having cheated death. From there, the book follows him as he tries to make restitution for failing to deliver a valuable package to the kingpin of a motorcycle gang. In his world, being clinically dead for a short time is no excuse for not getting the job done. What really drives Leach, though, is the need to punish himself for his culpability in the death of a woman he loved years ago.

The dark nature of the plot is tempered with wry humor as Donellan recounts Leach’s story through a first person point of view. As the reader gets into Leach’s head, it is revealed that he’s not who he claims to be. Nor is he any of the other personalities he has taken on. Although Leach doesn’t believe he’s a good person and his involvement with thugs, along with his reaction to dealing with dead bodies, would have one thinking he lacks human emotion and empathy, I found myself totally invested in this anti-hero, rooting for him to have a satisfying outcome.

As the plot progresses, it takes what I can only describe as a ‘weird’ turn of events with an element of fantasy in a strange new world. When Leach meets his new neighbor, Nisha, she takes him to an establishment called the Orrery, where each floor delivers a different type of sensory experience, and his current life and his past intertwine. The building’s levels act as a metaphor for the complex layers of Leach’s mind, and both are peeled back gradually to expose their true essence. In a journey of self-discovery, Leach’s subconscious grapples with who he truly is and the consequences of that.

The scenes of criminal activity, personal regret, his new friendship, and the ever-present past lead to a heart-pounding conclusion, linking to the beginning of the book, in which Leach (or some version of himself) finds atonement for his sins.

With constant twists in the plot and new revelations about Leach’s identity and his past life, the book will have you racing to discover what’s real and what Leach has fabricated. An unputdownable thriller full of sardonic wit, Rumors of Her Death will have you reading late into the night.

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