If I Die Before I Wake
by Emily Koch
‘My life as I knew it was stopped shortly after I turned twenty-seven.’
Alex is in a coma as the result of a climbing accident. At least, that is what his family and doctors believe. Because Alex can hear every word they speak and is desperately trying to wake himself up.
If I Die Before I Wake is a debut psychological thriller by journalist Emily Koch that pitches us into an apparently unconscious mind, with all the doubts and fears of the rest of us. In Alex’s case, the medical team cannot simply pull the plug, because Alex isn’t dependent on a machine to keep him alive. What they can do, however, is to ‘let him go’ by withdrawing medication when he needs it.
Closest to him are Bea, his girlfriend, Graham, his dad, and Philippa, his sister. All three are regular visitors and to Alex’s horror he hears them discuss letting him die. Why can’t he wake up and tell them? Also in and out of his room are the doctors and nurses responsible for his care, and friends Tom, Rosie and Eleanor.
‘A baby…. I heard paper rustling. The letter. You found the letter…. Dear Alex, You will pay for breaking my heart twice. We deserved better than you.’
Suddenly, it becomes obvious to Alex that the conversation has changed. Police suspect the ‘accident’ wasn’t one after all and that someone intentionally pushed him off a cliff. Trouble is, Alex can’t remember – not that he could do anything if he did. As he speculates on who might have done this to him, his frustration increases, as does his determination to make the medics and his family realise he is conscious. All seem to have his best interests at heart and he can’t believe any one of them is a murderer:
Tom and Eleanor, his climbing partners? – – Eleanor who confessed to loving him? Bea? Someone pretending to be a doctor? Or maybe someone from his past as a court journalist?
Things start to happen around Bea. She finds a letter which appears to indicate Alex was having an affair. There is a new boyfriend on the scene. She has a stalker!
‘When the man walked in. I was abruptly pulled out of my reverie…. Sweat started pricking my underarms. What if it was him – the guy who tried to kill me? Finally here, to finish what he started.’
Alex finally works out who his enemy is and as in all good thrillers it comes as a shock. He realises Bea is in danger and steps up his efforts to give a sign that he is conscious.
If I Die Before I Wake takes a fresh look at crime detection by giving us an unusual narrator, a man in a so-called vegetative state. And it offers a different perspective on the agonies and doubts of family and friends of anyone unfortunate enough to be comatose as the result of trauma.
‘Last chance. Move. MOVE.’
Will Alex wake up? Will his enemy succeed in killing him at the second attempt? Or, if not, will his family decide to let him go?
Emily Koch keeps us guessing until the final pages.