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If I Die Before I Wake

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How Do You Solve Your Own Murder?

Everyone believes Alex is in a coma, unlikely to ever wake up. As his family debate withdrawing life support, and his friends talk about how his girlfriend Bea needs to move on, he can only listen.

But Alex soon begins to suspect that the accident that put him here wasn’t really an accident. Even worse, the perpetrator is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger.

As he goes over a series of clues from his past, Alex must use his remaining senses to solve the mystery of who tried to kill him, and try to protect those he loves, before they decide to let him go.

A stunning edge-of-your-seat debut novel with an unforgettable narrator.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published January 11, 2018

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About the author

Emily Koch

6 books146 followers
Emily Koch is an award-winning writer living in Bristol, UK, with her husband and daughters.

She is the author of three novels: If I Die Before I Wake, Keep Him Close and What July Knew.

Her books have been shortlisted for the Crime Writers’ Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award, longlisted for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award, and selected as a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. The French translation of If I Die Before I Wake also won the inaugural crime fiction prize, Prix du Bureau des Lecteurs, in 2021.

If I Die Before I Wake was described as ‘a debut to be reckoned with’ (Guardian), and others have called her work ‘exhilarating’ (Daily Mail), ‘twisty, emotional and addictive’ (The Sun) and ‘tense drama’ (The Times). Waterstones have called her ‘one of the most exciting new crime writers of our day’.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 592 reviews
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,714 reviews25k followers
November 24, 2017
This is an original crime mystery with a narrative delivered entirely from the perspective of 27 year old Alex Jackson, a passionate rock climber and journalist on the Bristol Post. He is living with girlfriend Bea, whom he met when working in a Canadian camp on his gap year. He loves Bea completely although their relationship has its ups and downs. The novel begins with Alex having a climbing accident that leaves him in a coma, suffering from locked in syndrome. He is aware of what is going on around him, hears conversations, and experiences the daily medical care he receives from nurses Pauline and Connie. For a while his focus is on trying to get others to notice he is not in a vegetative state, his failure is demoralising and he cannot bear to see the suffering of others, and how his condition affects them. He gives up and thinks it best if he is left to die.

The author has done a terrific job in giving us such in depth insights and details of Alex's world. We see how the trauma plays out with his dad, his sister, Philippa, and more importantly with Bea, whose life comes to a standstill in the wake of the wreckage of Alex's accident. We become aware of a letter sent to Alex some time ago which claims that he is the father of the child in an enclosed photograph. Bea discovers the letter and thinks Alex has cheated on her. However, what changes everything for Alex is the slow drip feed of the knowledge that someone tried to kill him. Who hates him so much that it motivates them to murder him? Alex goes through all the suspects, the women he has slept with in the past, Eleanor, who loves him, and what seems to him to be the most likely candidate, someone who was angry that he was writing articles on the miscarriage of justice perpetrated on William Ormond, a man convicted of murder. The killer it seems is now fixating on Bea, this galvanises Alex to try and save her. As danger edges ever closer to Alex and Bea, will Alex emerge from the coma?

The author gives us such an interesting and compelling premise, the boyfriend in a coma so in love with his girlfriend that he would rather die than see her life wrecked by him. Eighteen months in a coma, and he gives up, until he becomes determinedly engaged in the mystery of who tried to murder him and the fear they will try again. The importance of solving this is paramount to Alex when it becomes clear that Bea is in grave danger. I was so impressed with Emily Koch's ability to enter the world of a coma patient and see the world from their perspective. Within this scenario she gives us the gripping introduction of a murder mystery. The character of Alex is beautifully fleshed out and developed, his struggle to connect with others, his oscillating emotions, and his stake in the well being of Bea, his family and his friends. If you are looking for something offbeat in the field of crime fiction, this fits the bill perfectly. A brilliant and thought provoking read. Many thanks to Random House Vintage for an ARC.
Profile Image for Melissa (Mel’s Bookshelf).
473 reviews287 followers
February 23, 2018
I am so conflicted about this book! Torn in two!
The first part of me thinks "WOW! What an interesting and original idea for a story! Brilliant!" However, the other part of me was severely underwhelmed by it.

After a rock climbing accident, Alex is in a hospital bed, unable to move or talk, or do anything at all except think, listen, and feel the world around him. Everyone thinks he is in a coma, with no brain activity. Can he make them see that he is awake? Before the person who caused his "accident" goes after the people he loves?

A big issue I had was a medical one. Being a nurse, I find it really difficult to read about medical stuff in novels. And in this one I just found it so completely difficult to believe that he could be having all these emotional responses, neurological RESPONSES to the world around him and his thoughts, that he didn't show any sign of. Nothing.. Yada.. Zilch.. No increased heart rate, no increased respiratory rate at the stressful stuff, and NOTHING AT ALL on the MRI... He would cry his eyes out, but NOTHING on the MRI...
"It's fiction Mel!!" I can hear you yelling at me! Yes I know! But it was just too much for me. Apparently he could smell peoples aftershaves, flowers and food even though there was no air coming in from his nose because he had a tracheostomy. Yes, some air may be able to get through, depending on the tube, sure! But to describe in meticulous detail the scents that he was experiencing? Nope I just can’t believe it. Thankfully, the average person is not medically trained so would most probably appreciate this aspect a lot more than I did. It wasn't all bad in the medical department at all, a lot of it was very accurate. I just notice everything.

One thing that others may agree with, is that it just went really slowly. There were parts that I struggled to get through just because it was moving so slowly. It was obviously a challenge, a novel in the mind of one so severely limited character, without resorting to story telling all in flashbacks. So points for that, but it just didn't hit the mark for me.

I enjoyed the twist, I didn't see it coming. I really liked the characters, even though character development of everyone except the main two characters was severely limited considering he couldn't even talk to them.

And it was just such an original idea! I haven't read anything like it, well maybe the lovely bones, but that character was obviously dead and was very different.
So I absolutely didn't hate it. But I didn't love it.

Would I recommend If I Die Before I Wake?
I think thriller fans and fans of original ideas will appreciate the different premise for this book, and those who are not so picky with the medical aspects of books will surely appreciate it more than I.

Big thanks to Netgalley for a copy of If I Die Before I Wake to review.
Profile Image for Brenda.
4,231 reviews2,731 followers
December 7, 2017
The horror Alex felt when he woke to tubes, strange sounds and the unfathomable feeling of being unable to move, talk or see, shocked him to his core. As he gradually discovered by listening to the nurses and his girlfriend, Bea, as well as his Dad and sister Phillipa – he had had an accident with his last climb. He was in a coma and had been for over a year. They were saying he was in a vegetative state, unaware of his surroundings, unable to hear anything. But they were wrong – he could hear; he just couldn’t respond.

Gradually, with his thoughts going around constantly in his head; the awareness of the police being involved; and what was being said around him – his thoughts turned to suspicions that someone had caused his accident. But who? And why? And how could he let his family know? But the talk was also of turning off his life support – he needed to solve the strange mystery before that happened? How though he just wasn’t sure…

If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch is a debut psychological thriller with a difference. Completely narrated by a man in a coma, unable to communicate in any way whatsoever, nevertheless he must solve his own murder! Some excellent twists, an intriguing plot and a gripping narrative, I have no hesitation in recommending If I Die Before I Wake to fans of a gritty thriller.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my digital ARC to read and review.
Profile Image for Sue.
2,731 reviews225 followers
October 2, 2021
Alex Jackson is 27 and has suffered a climbing accident that’s put him in a coma. He’s in a state of “lockdown syndrome” where unbeknown to anyone he can hear everything around him.
Imagine that!

He’s also a Journalist on the Bristol Post which I was so happy to hear as it’s my hometown.

He loves his girlfriend Bea more than life itself….literally….until he’s so entrenched with what he’s finding out (listening unknowingly) that he needs to find out who tried to kill him.

This author has absolutely done her homework as she gets into the mind of a person in this medical state. I was in awe.

This is told from Alex and I loved it, absolutely and most definitely loved this.

I’ll be looking at the authors other books as I do love her writing.
This plot had me hanging on every sentence.
Profile Image for Emma.
986 reviews1,006 followers
December 25, 2017
An interesting concept that reminded me somewhat of The Lovely Bones, this thriller is told by Alex from his hospital bed, seemingly lost to his friends and family in a coma. Following what was originally thought to be a climbing accident, Alex is conscious but has no means of communicating his awareness to those around him, and when he realises there are questions about what happened that fateful day, he bends his mind to working out just who may have hurt him.

The pain and emotional trauma felt by Alex packs the hardest punch here, though even the most peripheral characters are given feeling and motivation through the skill of the author. Even so, the need for everything to happen or be related at his bedside somewhat stretched the plot at points, especially when it came to the final denouement. It remained an engaging read, but you can feel the way things are being bent to fit and that takes you away from the immersive nature of Alex's experience.

ARC via Netgalley
February 10, 2018
If I Die Before I Wake is a startlingly original crime fiction debut which remains singularly captivating from beginning to end and has an eloquence all of its own. This story is narrated in its entirety by twenty-seven-year-old Alex Jackson, a journalist at the Bristol Post and an ardent rock climber until two years ago when a fall in the Avon Gorge left him in a coma and suffering from locked-in syndrome. The doctors believe he faces little chance of ever waking up and is unaware of what is going on around him when in actual fact his mind is working and he can hear, smell and see what is going on around him but in a cruel twist of fate, he is unable to communicate. As girlfriend, Bea, friends and family continue to visit from initially raging at the injustice of his situation to becoming convinced he is being punished, Alex slowly gives up the will to live and sees his fate as divine retribution for acceding to his mothers demand to stop actively fighting her death from cancer. As his early narrative delves into the Jackson family dynamic, his relationship with Bea and recounts some of his anecdotes which add real colour to his character his self-deprecating and honest words are endearing and conveyed with warmth. Within the first few chapters Emily Koch manages to get her audience invested in Alex’s story however when the story opens he is fighting for a very different goal to his doctors; that of death. He can see the effects he is having on Bea, who is urged by others to move on, his miserable father, Graham, and his fiery sister, Philippa and in a fitting analogy to his love of rock climbing Alex compares his decision to stop fighting as “cutting my rope”.

All of that changes when Alex realises that detectives are taking a closer look at suspicions surrounding his death, and he assumes that after eighteen-months it must relate to an insurance issue with his climbing equipment. What if it wasn’t fate that caused Alex to fall? As he notices that his visitors style of talking shifts to that of bereaved relatives tending a graveside he works through his own list of potential foes, from grudges at work to the more contentious stories he has covered in his journalism career, including a campaign to reopen the investigation which saw nineteen-year-old William Ormand convicted of the murder of Holly King. The more he ponders things it all seems to come back to the anonymous letter which implied he has fathered a child and cheated on Bea, that he kept hidden from his loyal girlfriend. When Bea stumbles on the letter and feels betrayed she is determined to discover the truth behind it and contacts Alex’s old friends and puts her own life on hold to investigate, losing weight and unable to sleep. As Bea’s anxiety grows she begins to suspect she is being followed, reporting silent phone calls and scared to be alone, making Alex fear that the person who attempted to murder him is now after Bea next. As he concentrates on trying to convey some sign of life to his visitors and doctors, the internal monologue of his suffering is raw with emotion, distraught about the growing distance with Bea and his concerns for her safety. Suddenly solving his own murder and steering the woman he loves clear of danger all begins to take on far greater importance.

It is the details of Alex’s experience at the hands of the medics, from the physical pain that he can feel from suctioning, mattress deflation and fourteen-hour overnight feeds to the and limbs left awkwardly positioned that resonate the most. The respective tenderness and truculence of nurses Pauline and Connie along with the doctors rounds add a warm humour to proceedings. Emily Koch captures Alex’s feeling of futility with no escape and no way of solving the mystery apart from his memories and with the inability to distract himself these aspects are multiplied exponentially. Although the relationships seem one-sided perhaps most interestingly is how Alex’s awareness of his sisters concern deepens when he sees how vociferous she is in urging the doctors to run more diagnostic tests and her anger that Bea has so easily moved on.

Unforgettable as a narrator, Alex is also unreliable to boot for an array of reasons, from his haziness and memory loss of the events just before his fall, to his limited vision (“amorphous shapes”), his lapses in and out of consciousness and the added confusion of his frequent battles with pneumonia. Piecing together his unordered patchwork of memories, Alex’s limited clues are the titbits of information he overhears. Although I was utterly captivated throughout Alex’s story I had some reservations about the initial pace, which failed to hint at suspicions surrounding his fall until about fifteen percent of the way through and arguably took too long to be fleshed out in any substantial depth. Admittedly this is partly due to Alex’s inability to ask questions and because he is only privy to the conversations of his surrounding visitors and medical staff, so in that sense it certainly conveys his very real sense of frustration. As Alex’s thrashes out who could want him dead, the tension takes a firm hold on the reader and the novel undoubtedly takes on a growing urgency.

Whilst a sufferer of locked-in syndrome seems an unlikely narrator to have widespread appeal, after a meeting with Alex Jackson and a window into his world I doubt there will be many readers who are left disappointed and do not take a great deal from his journey. If I Die Before I Wake plays out to a mesmerising and powerful conclusion and is an impressive and beautifully crafted novel that is guaranteed to stay with the reader. A clearly well researched story which captures the plight of a sufferer of locked-in syndrome sincerely and this has paid dividends for Emily Koch in a very convincing debut.
Profile Image for Gary.
2,674 reviews377 followers
September 20, 2017
This book is told from Alex's view point, he is in a coma and everyone gives him little hope of any improvement. He lies motionless in an hospital bed but can hear the goings on around him. Alex is torn between wanting to die and wanting to live. Unable to communicate he tries to work out what has happened to him and how he has ended up in a coma, and fears he may still in danger.
This is an excellent read and I will be looking out for more books by this author in the future.

I would like to thank Random House UK and Net Galley for supplying a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Nicki.
623 reviews2 followers
December 8, 2017
Imagine being trapped inside your own mind,you can't move any part of your body,you can see but only every now and then and then that's only blurry images.The only thing that is working properly is your hearing and you are forced to listen while others decide wether you have a future or not.That's the nightmare world that Alex Jackson has found himself trapped in.Everyone believes that he is in a coma and is unlikely to wake up and all he can do is lie in his hospital bed and listen.As time passes Alex begins to realise that the accident that caused his condition wasn't really a accident.Even worse the person who tried to kill him is still out there and Alex is not the only one in danger.

The reader spends the whole of this gripping thriller being a passenger inside Alex`s head as he struggles with his fear,anger and frustration at the situation that he finds himself in.we follow as he goes back over what he can remember of his past,hoping to find some clue that will help him identify who tried to kill him.We listen into the interactions between his visitors including his father,sister and girlfriend Bea as well as the private thoughts that they shared with Alex himself.we also learn about the hospital staff who are responsible for his care including kind,caring Pauline and horrible,obnoxious Connie.

I was hooked in by this riveting story from the very first page.There was a number of twists and red herrings that kept the reader guessing and the short snappy chapters gave me a very bad dose of Just one more chapter syndrome.The ending really got to me for personal reasons and I was close to tears when I finished the book.I loved this well written debut thriller and I look forward to reading more books by this author in the future.

Many thanks to Random House UK / Vintage Publishing for a arc of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a honest review
Profile Image for Heidi.
1,064 reviews218 followers
September 4, 2017
I know that this book is not going to be published until January. Plus, I have plenty of books on my reading list that I should be reading first. But I felt like I just needed something a bit different, something that stood out from the fray– what would fit the bill better than a mystery told from the POV of a character in a permanent vegetative state, his active mind trapped in a lifeless body and unable to communicate? I just couldn’t resist!

Alex is in a coma, unable to move his body, eat, speak, or even move his eyes. Two years after a terrible climbing accident, the doctors have long given up on him ever regaining any function and have been unable to prove that Alex is even aware of his surroundings. Pneumonia has almost claimed his life several times, but still Alex clings on to the small hope that one day he can return to his old life, his girlfriend, his family. Lying helpless in bed, totally at the mercy of others, he overhears his visitors talking about the incident that has cost him his life as he knew it, but as hard as he tries to think back, he cannot remember anything. Hearing that the police are investigating his accident as a possible attempted murder, Alex is determined to find out what happened – if it’s the last thing he will ever do.

I really loved the premise of If I Die Before I Wake, which was both original and captivating. Imagining what it must feel like for our main character, Alex, trapped in his own body unable to communicate even his most basic needs or pain, created an almost unbearable tension. His frustration over his helplessness was highlighted by the many scenes in which he had to endure pain or suffering, simply because of being locked into his lifeless body. It was horrible to imagine what this must be like! The mystery element is well thought out and kept my attention, and it was interesting how slowly but surely all the pieces of the puzzle came together in Alex’s mind. The interpersonal relationships were sensitively drawn – the nurses, the doctors, Alex’s girlfriend and family – and made for some touching and some infuriating moments.

The main issue I had with the book was the pacing. Whilst Alex’s predicament made for an original plotline, it also slowed down the story quite significantly in places, whilst the reader follows his long internal dialogue and his daily frustrations. It reminded me a bit of Tom Hanks’ epic movie Castaway, where a marooned Chuck Noland only has his volleyball to talk to – which, to be fair, is very original, but wore a bit thin after a while. Parts of the story dragged a bit for me, and I would have liked to have a different element introduced, a different POV perhaps, just to move the story along and shed light on some other aspects of the investigation Alex was not privy to. Some threads didn’t seem to go anywhere, like the scene where Alex’s catheter “fell out”, which made me wonder if I had missed something? Because of this, I struggled at times to fully connect to Alex, hoping for things to move along a bit faster than they did.

All in all, If I Die Before I Wake was a very original mystery written from the POV from the most unlikely character – a man trapped inside his lifeless body, surely one of the most terrible situations a person could find themselves in. Koch explores this topic with sensitivity and insight, realistically portraying the frustrations of her helpless character as he strives to find out the truth. Whilst the pacing was a bit slow for me at times, the story certainly made up for it in originality. One of the most unusual mysteries I have read this year.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

*blog* *facebook* *instagram*
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,471 reviews1,012 followers
July 8, 2017
Still a fair few to go in my “Ones to Watch in 2018” feature and next up we have a tense and brilliantly edge of the seat psychological thriller – If I Die Before I Wake by Emily Koch.

Now this is one of those books that grips you from the outset to the point that you ignore everything else until you are done. Told entirely from the point of view of Alex, in a coma with everyone believing he is to all intents and purposes gone, he is still in there and can hear what’s going on around him and feel what is happening to him. He has had an accident – or was it? As we get drip fed snippets of information from those around him we come to realise that all is not as it seems. Possibly not even Alex himself..

What I loved about this one was the very strong emotional core Emily Koch brings to the storytelling, really digging into the trauma Alex suffers and how it affects his psyche. Torn between wanting to die and wanting to live, all the while trying to work out what the heck happened to him and why, you really feel for him, lying in that bed, unable to communicate – and even worse realising that the danger has not passed.

You also get a real feel for the characters around him – his Sister, Father, close friends and most of all his girlfriend Bea who is fighting a battle of her own – should she remain loyal or move on – as things progress you get to know them all well, even though you are only getting random snapshots.

The mystery element is brilliantly imagined and the plotting is excellent – there are twists along the way, emotional resonance to the haunting sense of loss and an ending that absolutely kills – one of those that will keep nagging at the edges of your mind for a long time afterwards.

Overall a really excellent, often nail biting, always engaging read and a page turning addition to the genre.

Profile Image for Colleen Fauchelle.
494 reviews63 followers
January 29, 2019
Alex has been in hospital for neally two years, not able to move anything or let people know he is aware of what is going on around him. He had a good job and loved climbing and a fall has caused him to be where he is and he wants to die. Since Alex is the one telling the story we are stuck in the bedc with him, we know when he is being treated well and when he is not by his carers. He knows who is entering the room by their smell and foot steps. We get snipets of chats as people come and go. Every thing changs when he hears that maybe the accident was done on purpose. Then Alex does all he can to work it out and make the people around him know that he is concious.
This is a very dence story because we are in Alex's head the whole time. He is a nice guy and its easy to fight along with him.
Profile Image for Joanne Robertson.
1,363 reviews557 followers
September 5, 2018
This is another book that I nearly missed out on and I could kick myself for not reading it earlier! I think I was put off it as I’m not a big fan of the coma as a plot twist but this book certainly brought an intriguing idea to life in a unique and beautifully written narrative. I really was surprised at how difficult I found it to put this book down! And I was unable to predict how it would end which definitely kept my interest in the lead up to the breathtaking final few pages.

I thought Alex was a brilliant character and considering he was in a coma, Emily Koch did a fabulous job of bringing him to life (so to speak!) His past unfolded in the flashbacks that he is able to recall, as he is still totally aware of his surroundings and previous life even though he’s in a comatose state. And that means he wants to try to solve the mystery of why he’s in hospital in the first place. Unfortunately he is unable to remember the climbing accident that he gathers has put him there but as his thoughts start to come together, he realises that it possibly wasn’t the accident his visitors think it was. And that someone is still out there waiting to finish the job…..

The development of the storyline depended heavily on clues provided by those visitors to Alex’s bedside which I thought was a very cleverly crafted plot device! To be able to solve your own murder is an improbable problem for murder victims but this uniquely written book made it possible for Alex. The problem was. though that his loved ones have decided it’s time to let him go and it’s now it’s a race against time. But how can a man in a coma possibly communicate his conclusions even if he does manage to solve his own case? Thats what made this book completely different and unpredictable for me. I had nothing to compare it to so had no idea what sort of outcome I was expecting. I read it with so many different emotions, depending on who the visitors to Alex’s bedside were, but all the time hoping for a miracle and for the happy ending I desperately wanted for Alex-that man really got to me!!!!

This is another contender for my list of favourites books of this year and to think I nearly missed out on it!!

Highly recommended by me!
Profile Image for Kate.
606 reviews513 followers
September 22, 2017
I know I said I’m taking a break, and I am. But I couldn’t wait to get my thoughts out on If I Die Before I Wake.

IIDBIW is billed as a psychological mystery, and it is, but it is so much more too.

When we meet Alex, he’s lying in a hospital bed, with all those around him believing he’s in a coma. Yet he can still hear, and feel, and think for himself. He just can’t move. He is trapped in his own body.

We see everything from Alex’s perspective, and along with him, we learn that his climbing accident may have been something more sinister. As his visitors come and go, we all learn a little bit more about them all and how they fit into Alex’s life before the fall.

If I Die Before I Wake is a very clever novel. I loved the fact that the main character was male, as it’s not the usual thing in the psychological thriller genre lately. The narrative is brilliantly told, and with each new piece of information gleaned, the tension rises.

I found myself unable to put the book down. So much so that I read almost all of it in one day. Today, in fact. The characterisation is excellent. We learn a little about everyone. Family members, friends, their various experiences. All of this lends itself really well to how I felt about Alex. I was rooting for him from the very beginning. Willing him to move, to talk, to do anything.

I loved how the author built tension throughout the book. More than once I had to remind myself to relax. I was getting so caught up in the story that my body was rigid! It also makes the reader feel a range of emotions for all of those involved too.

Compulsive, engaging and thoroughly gripping, If I Die Before I Wake is most certainly a book to watch out for in 2018. I can’t wait to see where this author goes next!

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
59 reviews6 followers
September 14, 2017
Provided with an ARC in exchange for a fair review

I'm really surprised at how highly rated this book is. I found it pretty boring, the protagonist is literally in a coma for the whole thing and it's all just flashbacks and snippets of overheard conversations. I wasn't really invested in any of the characters. It feels like an effort to even review and I think I'll have forgotten it entirely pretty soon.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
2,083 reviews1,661 followers
August 7, 2019
From the instant I started reading this it grabbed my attention with its originality and maintained my interest throughout. The story was told through the eyes and ears of Alex, a fanatical climber who following an accident in the Avon Gorge was lying in a coma for two years. He can hear, see shapes, feel pain especially when his feeding tube was changed but he was unable to move or communicate. I found this fascinating as it raised so many questions about what we think we know about people in conditions like this or with locked in syndrome. Alex decided that he was going to let go and die so that his family and girlfriend Bea could move on with their lives especially if he was unable to do the things he used to. It wasn’t a simple decision and he was conflicted about it just as his family must have been about what course of action to take medically for Alex.

However, Alex became concerned for the safety of his girlfriend and the book became very tense especially when it became clear that not only was Bea in danger but he was too. All became clear about the accident and the events that threaten Bea in an unexpected ending.

I thought this was well written, original and very thought provoking.
Profile Image for Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews.
1,957 reviews277 followers
June 17, 2018
Over time I have read and enjoyed a handful of books that focus on a narrator who is in a persistent vegetative state or coma. These novels have often focussed on a mystery which the reader, along with the narrator, must work to unlock. It makes for some fascinating reading fodder. If I Die Before I Wake, a book written by debut author Emily Koch, enters this territory.

Almost two years ago, Alex fell into a coma after a rock climbing accident. His family are now making the heartbreaking decision to turn off his life support, after tests have conclusively shown Alex is unresponsive. It has been an agonising time for his family, friends and girlfriend Bea. They are now coming to the conclusion that they need to move forward and let go of Alex. All the while, Alex can hear everything around him, including the conversations about his impending death. Alex doesn’t have the energy to communicate in a way that will make the doctors and his family pay attention. Recently, the police have been sniffing around Alex’s hospital room, seeking more answers to his accident. It appears Alex’s accident may have been a calculated murder and he must summon all the strength, via his working senses, to help solve the crime of who killed him. It is a race against time to ensure the perpetrator of Alex’s accident is apprehended before his family decides to make the final goodbye.

Emily Koch, the debut author of If I Die Before I Wake, has concocted a compelling scenario to feature in her first novel. I really enjoyed following a narrator who is floating in between life and death and is on a race against time to solve his own murder before his life support is removed. This is a really interesting situation and resulted in a read that I consumed very quickly from cover to cover.

This book unfolds via the first person point of view of Alex, a victim of a rock climbing accident, who is now in a persistent vegetative state. Sadly and frustratingly for Alex, his senses are still very active. Alex can see a little, hear a lot and smell. Since his tragic fall almost two years ago, Alex has remained unresponsive according to the doctors treating him. It is a strange situation, but Koch works well to help the reader get inside Alex’s inner thoughts and experiences. I was impressed by how much I learnt from Alex’s situation. Clearly Koch has spent a great deal of time getting to grips with the workings of coma patients. She presents her novel with great deal of insight and realism.

I connected to Alex’s voice quite easily and sympathised greatly with his plight. I felt for him when he mused on his regrets and the things he would never get to see, or achieve in his life. The whole situation was all very sad. Alex has a strong voice despite his weak predicament. The interactions that take place around Alex gives us a good glimpse into his character. These include his positive and negative experiences with hospital staff, such the different nurses and doctors that tend to him. We also witness Alex’s love for Bea, his girlfriend and his need to continue to protect her safety, despite his restrictive state. We also get a taste of his family relationships with his dad, sister and memories of his deceased mother crop up. Finally, Alex’s friends, such as climbing buddies Tom and Eleanor, as well as the recollections of his working life as a journalist all serve to give us a well rounded view of Alex. It allows us to see beyond Alex as simply a body lying in a hospital bed. Koch does a great job of this element of the novel.

I enjoyed the process of trying to work out, along with Alex, who was responsible for putting him to his death. There were some positive plot twists and surprising information that come to light as the book progressed. I found myself a little on edge with this book, as I became swept up in Alex’s fate and the events that resulted in his trauma. The final turn of events were satisfying and I felt a sense of calm wash over me as I closed the final page of this book.

A little confronting, but also very gripping all the same, I was lucky to whip through this one in a sitting. By reading it in one intense round, it served to heighten the tension around this novel. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how it would feel possessing such an active mind, in a lifeless body. Koch bridges this gap in an illuminating fashion, by giving us a glimpse of what this feeling of entrapment would be like. What I loved most about If I Die Before I Wake was the use of the male narrator who is a coma, but is grappling with the skills to help him feel heard. With an excellent sense of tension and a super mystery element attached, you can’t go wrong with If I Die Before I Wake.
Profile Image for Danielle-Gemma💜.
163 reviews14 followers
July 15, 2021
3.5* - I really wish you could give half stars at 4 feels too generous but 3 too low!
It was a good book with a great premise that kept me hanging on until about 30 pages from the end when you found answers but they were satisfactory and then the book just seems to dwindle to a conclusion. I feel like more could have been done to push this book to a higher rating! X
Profile Image for Emma Mitchell.
Author 2 books127 followers
March 10, 2018
I've heard of locked in syndrome, I'm sure most people have. It sounds utterly terrifying and Koch brings that terror to the pages of her debut novel, If I Die Before I Wake.
Alex is in a vegetative state. The doctors have convinced his friends and family that he cannot see, hear, feel, or well, anything really. He isn't there anymore. An accident has claimed him mind and body, it's quite a miracle that he's still able to breath alone, but that's pretty much all he can do for himself.
Except it's not.
Alex can hear everything. He can feel everything and he is desperate to make those around him realise that he's still there, he hasn't left them at all.
A bit of a slow burner, I wasn't quite sure where it was going to start with, told purely from Alex's point of view, we are taken on the journey of his life as he lies in his hospital bed. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly of the NHS, and the frustration of someone who is unable to communicate with the people around him. Not only that, they don't think he can hear them so there's no holds barred on some of things people say or do to him.
As we hit the halfway point, things really start to pick up. Alex starts to realise his accident wasn't an accident at all, but because no one thinks he's 'there', they don't tell him anything. He has use his fractured memories and snippets of conversations from his various visitors to try and piece together what happened to him, and when he does, he's launched into a race against the clock to save those he loves before they flick the switch.
If I Die Before I Wake is such an impressive debut novel, it's shocking. I haven't cried this much at a book since Louise Jensen's The Sister.
How Koch manages to keep the reader engaged when there isn't any action going on is testament to her writing skills, I was completely gripped and literally couldn't put this one down until I knew what would happen. Would Alex's family and friends discover the truth in time? Would the police believe that the accident wasn't an accident? Would the culprit be found? And most importantly ... Would they discover Alex was still there in time?
A fantastically unique idea to introduce a group of characters, I have to admit I'm still a little shell-shocked at how much emotion I still for them all. Completely captivating, heartbreaking, and definitely one you need to get pre-ordered and add to your TBR folks, it's a flipping belter!
I cannot wait to see what Koch has in store for us next!
136 reviews41 followers
August 13, 2018
Emily Koch werkte jarenlang als journalist in Bristol, maar stopte met haar baan om een mastergraad in Creative Writing te halen aan Bath Spa University. Als ik doodga voor ik opsta is haar debuut.

Het verhaal gaat over dat iedereen denkt dat Alex in coma ligt en nooit meer wakker zal worden. Maar hij hoort alles wat er rondom zijn ziekenhuisbed wordt gezegd. Hij hoort dat er op zijn vriendin wordt ingepraat- ze moet hem vergeten en verder leven. Hij hoort zijn familieleden opperen dat een milde dood misschien het beste is. En dan hoort hij dat zijn noodlottige ongeluk misschien helemaal geen ongeluk was. Alex duikt in zijn herinneringen en pijnigt zijn hersenen om te ontdekken wie de moordaanslag heeft gepleegd. Vanuit de gevangenis van zijn eigen lichaam moet hij het antwoord vinden voordat zijn behandeling wordt stopgezet, en voordat er nieuwe slachtoffers vallen. Want Alex is niet het enige doelwit...

De cover is niet heel erg bijzonder, maar het verhaal op de achterkant triggerde mij wel. Ik hoopte op een spannend verhaal. Ik vind het vervelend om te zeggen, want ik weet dat een auteur zijn best heeft gedaan en graag goede recensies wil, maar ik kan het bij dit boek helaas niet geven. Ik heb zelden zo'n saai boek gelezen. Ik heb iedere x een stukje gelezen en dan weggelegd, omdat ik het zo slaapverwekkend vond. Er gebeurd niks. Het verhaal kabbelt maar door. Het einde was een klein beetje verassend daarom geef ik het 2 sterren!
Profile Image for Renita D'Silva.
Author 10 books328 followers
June 2, 2018
An absolutely engrossing story. I couldn't out it down.
Profile Image for Michelle.
1,308 reviews126 followers
January 4, 2018
The whole story is told by Alex. After a climbing accident Alex is left in a vegetative state and everyone thinks that he is not going to wake up. But although the tests show there is no brain activity, he can hear and smell and feel pain. But, he cannot move. He can hear all that’s going on around him. But he cannot do anything about it, even when her hears that his family is thinking of ending his life and his girlfriend is being stalked. He cannot protect her.
While he lies there, he finds out that his case has been re-opened and his ‘accident’ maybe not one at all but, someone attempted to murder him. Who would want to murder him? He always tried to help people. While he lays there and try’s and figures it out the killer and also whether she should live or end his life.
Wow if this is Emily’s debut novel I can’t wait for what else she has instore. I loved the idea of it written in Alex perspective. It is so different to others that I have read. This is also such emotional read and I really was hoping that Alex was going to wake up. I didn’t want to put the book down. I wanted to read it in one sitting just to see what happened at the end. It gripped me through out.
Thank you Net galley and Random House UK Vintage Publishing for a chance to read this book.
Profile Image for Todd Simpson.
735 reviews34 followers
July 3, 2017
This was such an interesting and captivating story. The plot is definitely unique, and I think this is why I enjoyed it so much. I also like a novel that is thought provoking, and there were a number of times in this book where I stopped to think about things. Emily Koch has done an amazing job with this wonderful piece of writing, and she has certainly captured my attention. Alex loved his rock climbing more than anything, but after a terrible accident, he ended up in hospital in a coma. However this wasn’t a normal coma, as Alex could hear and feel everything. He just couldn’t talk or move any part of his body. At one point he would have welcomed death, as he found it quite tough living in limbo. Alex had questions that he needed answers to, and it plagued him that he couldn’t remember how his accident happened. He didn’t know how long he had though, as the doctors were discussing with his family the possibility of stopping his treatment. If they decided to disconnect his feeding tube, then there really wasn’t much he could do about it. Hand down, this is a book worth adding to your reading list.
Profile Image for Claire.
907 reviews153 followers
February 11, 2018
How is this Emily Koch’s debut? How!?!?! If I Die Before I Wake is something so different and thought provoking alongside an intriguing mystery to solve.

I really felt for Alex. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to have to listen conversations about you and in some cases at you with no right to respond or react. And these conversations alongside Alex’s thoughts gradually drop pieces of a jigsaw to reveal who tried to kill Alex.

I don’t know if this is what it is like to be in a coma; thankfully I’ve never been in a position where I’ve been in a coma. But the author definitely gave me a perspective of what it could be like and it’s quite a frightening one when you think that there are your nearest and dearest having to such hard decisions around medical support. I was willing Alex to give the doctors an indication he was still in there.

This is a chilling read. The only perspective you have is Alex’s and for the majority of the story, he doesn’t interact with the other characters. I was desperate to find out who had caused Alex to be there in the hospital bed.

Emily Koch is on my list of authors to watch if this debut novel is anything to go by.
Profile Image for Christina McDonald.
Author 10 books2,567 followers
December 21, 2018
A cleverly written psychological thriller written from the POV of a victim who everybody thinks is in a coma. The twist is he can actually still hear, feel and think. He’s trapped inside his own body while trying to figure out who tried to kill him.

I loved that it was well-written and unique, I liked the protagonist’s voice, and the tagline was so intriguing I absolutely had to read this novel. Koch did a great job of not just telling the story through flashbacks, which was really impressive, although it also meant that a lot of the story sort of dragged slowly along. I found myself skimming large chunks because nothing was actually happening.

An intriguing idea and very well written. A good summer read on the beach.
Profile Image for Susan Hampson.
1,522 reviews58 followers
October 12, 2018
I sometimes think that you have to read a book before you realise just how powerful the title is. Alex wasn't asleep but his family and the doctors all thought that he was in a coma. The truth was Alex was very aware of his surroundings but unable to move or communicate with anyone. He could only see shapes as white, grey and black but he could hear alright and felt every touch.
Alex, an accomplished climber, had fallen down a rock face at a time that he wasn't wearing a helmet, or at least that is what everyone thought but as time went on Alex was discovering new memories and reasons for someone to want him dead. But who? and why? and how could he let anyone know?
When I started this book I thought how can a whole book revolve round a hospital room with someone who can't move or communicate, ok there were some flashbacks but so much of it took place in this little room but it is so tense, so very emotional and heart breaking for him and the people who love him. I really did get to know what a day in the life of Alex was like, the good nurses, to the ones where it was just a job and the ones that were on the brink of sadistic.
Alex's accident wasn't the first tragedy that the family had to deal with, each of them having very strong opinions about quality of life and treatments and when to actually let go of a loved one. I felt bonded to each of them in different ways as the story felt very personal and intimate. The highs and lows were so intense for me and I do have to admit to becoming overwhelmed by my emotions at parts of this story.
This is a highly recommended debut of this author's book. Outstanding!
I wish to thank NetGalley for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
Profile Image for Patricia.
776 reviews4 followers
April 21, 2018
Alex has been in a coma for two years after a climbing accident....there are no signs of life, the doctors are sure he's gone. Except he hasn't. His body has shut down but his mind is alive. He can feel, hear and sometimes see - he just can't move, or speak. He listens as his girlfriend and family debate whether or not he should be kept alive. He thinks they should let him go. But then it's discovered the accident was no accident at all and that someone he loves could also be in danger.Now he wants to stay alive to work out who did this, and how he can stop them from his comatose body.

This book starts great. The author has given a real sense of Alex's desparation as he hears his family's and friends suffering as he remains in a coma. But then, strangely, as it kicks off into full blown mystery it loses momentum. I think the issue was in the back of my mind was "well if he works it out what can he do?" Really he just becomes an observer. However the last few pages really redeem the book but left me wishing this hadn't been a thriller, and perhaps just Alexs story.....I think it would have been a more interesting tale.

I received this from Netgalley for an unbiased review.
Profile Image for Laura.
956 reviews77 followers
December 23, 2017
Book reviews on www.snazzybooks.com

Ahh, another great read to continue my excitement at the fantastic novels being published in 2018! This is a tricky book to write my review on for two reasons - 1) I wanted bits of it to be different, and 2) I'm glad really that those bits weren't different! You need to read this novel to see what I'm saying, but I hugely enjoyed starting If I Die Before I Wake without knowing all that much about it, so I'm going to avoid including any details in this review which might give too much away!

The premise itself is really interesting - we see everything through the mind and consciousness of Alex. No one else is aware that Alex is actually conscious though, because Alex is in a coma after having a climbing accident. As the novel continues, however, we start to see that it may not have been such an accident after all...

There are plenty of doubtful characters in If I Die Before I Wake, a trope I love - I like that feeling of unsettledness, when you don't quite know who is authentic and who is hiding something. Alex himself starts to doubt some people around him, for different reasons. The fact that he is stuck in a hospital bed, fully aware of what's going on (though he can't see) and being able to feel and experience a lot of what's happening, means this book felt very claustrophobic. At times I noticed myself feeling more and more constricted, as Alex himself feels increasingly like this, and Emily Koch's ability to make the reader mimic Alex's feelings is amazing (though makes for an uncomfortable reading experience at times!). I felt like I was there with him, stuck in an unmoving, unresponsive body, having to hear conversations he doesn't want to hear, or being put in painful positions by unaware nurses. It's so uncomfortable to read sometimes, but this only makes it so much more powerful as a novel.

Then, of course, there's the mystery element. I do love a good mystery! This book is obviously quite unique in that we don't follow the police, or a smart private investigator, or even Alex's girlfriend Bea, as the case unfolds. We only find out what Alex can piece together, which is even more frustrating as he is never told anything because no one realises he can hear! It's a very unique way of storytelling and, although at times I just wanted to know WHAT IS GOING ON?, I appreciate the powerful storytelling that Emily Koch has presented here. I'd also like strong words with her about *that part* (I don't want to specify anything more so as not to give too much away). It definitely evoked strong feelings in me, and left me thinking about it long after I'd finished, which is certainly a sign of a compelling, well-written story!

* Many thanks to Random House UK and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review. *
Profile Image for Paul.
888 reviews71 followers
January 24, 2018
If I Die Before I Wake – A Good Debut Thriller

Emily Koch is an award-winning journalist and a graduate of the fabulous creative writing course at Bath Spa, has written a debut thriller that will keep you enthralled. If I Die Before I Awake, should not work, but it does in so many ways, and will keep the reader gripped throughout.

Alex is in a coma, and there are doubts he will ever come out of it, he is surrounded by the machinery that is keeping him alive. His girlfriend, Bea, his family and friends visit often and have done so for the eighteen months or, so he has been in a coma. What they and the medical staff do not realise he can hear every word that is being said, he can see the outline of bodies and more importantly he can feel everything.

Alex is our narrator as he describes his life before and after a climbing fall, a mere accident so he believes. What he cannot remember is the moment of the fall while climbing that is just a blank. His climbing partner was below him so knows absolutely nothing about what went on to cause the fall.

While Alex is locked in within his body he tries to put together what actually happened and whether it was an accident, or someone tried to murder him. He tries his hardest to survive and give indications that he is still fighting to live, but the scans and other tests show nothing is happening. The hospital is preparing the family for switching his life support machine off, but that spurs Alex on to find out who tried to kill him.

As Alex lies in the bed listening to what everyone is saying around him he is trying to work out the hardest puzzle of his life. Will he be able to solve it, and will he be able to show everyone he has the will to live by fighting to get out of the coma.

A good debut thriller that will keep you hooked from beginning to end.
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