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The Big Thrill Recommends: IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ME by Alex Finlay

Recommended by Neil Nyren

Book Cover: IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO MEFor the last three years, Alex Finlay has been writing terrifically intricate thrillers full of twisty reveals, multiple points of view, and deep dives into those we call friends and family.

In Every Last Fear (2021), a student named Matt Pine is told that four members of his family have died from an accidental gas leak in Mexico—but was it an accident? And how is it connected to the murder that Matt’s own brother is jailed for?

In The Night Shift (2022), a multiple murder deeply rattles a small town—especially because it mirrors another multiple murder there 15 years earlier. And that is not all they have in common….

In What Have We Done (2023), the one-time residents of a group home for parentless teens reluctantly reunite to try to figure out why, 25 years later, they are being killed off one by one. But at least one of them already knows the answer.

All excellent books, but IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ME may be the best.

Two Kansas high school sweethearts, Alison Lane and Ryan Richardson, are finally about to have sex, a kind of wistful goodbye before each goes off to separate colleges. It’s raining, they’re in her father’s car, and they’re deeply preoccupied when the door to the car is yanked open; Ryan receives a crushing blow, and when he wakes up in the wet grass, she’s gone. So is the car.

Five years later, they’re still missing. Ryan is a law student now, going by Ryan Smith to avoid the cloud of suspicion that still hangs over his head. And then, on a trip to Italy, two things happen. He receives an anonymous note that says, “I know who you are.” And he gets a phone call from home saying that the car’s been found at the bottom of a lake.

But Alison is not in it. And the bodies of two men are. Who are they? No one knows. There is only a coded note tucked in an envelope in a waterproof bag, and on the envelope, Alison’s handwriting says, “If Something Happens to Me.”

From there, the novel accelerates, switching back and forth from Italy to England to Kansas to Philadelphia and sweeping in a wide array of characters: a brand-new Kansas deputy sheriff with shadows in her military past, a mobster with two missing fingers, a grieving parent with murder on his mind, a 12-year-old true crime podcaster, a long-dead serial killer, an accountant on the run, an enigmatic agent of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. What are the connections between them? You’ll find out.

Every one of them has secrets. But Alison Lane may have had the biggest secret of all.

It’s a master class in thriller writing—with a surprisingly tender ending.

Neil Nyren


Neil Nyren is the former EVP, associate publisher, and editor in chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons and the winner of the 2017 Ellery Queen Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Among the writers of crime and suspense he has edited are Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, John Sandford, C. J. Box, Robert Crais, Carl Hiaasen, Daniel Silva, Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth, Ken Follett, Jonathan Kellerman, Ed McBain, and Ace Atkins. He now writes about crime fiction and publishing for CrimeReads, BookTrib, The Big Thrill, and The Third Degree, among others, and is a contributing writer to the Anthony/Agatha/Macavity-winning How to Write a Mystery.

He is currently writing a monthly publishing column for the MWA newsletter The Third Degree, as well as a regular ITW-sponsored series on debut thriller authors for and is an editor at large for CrimeReads.


The Big Thrill Recommends: IF SOMETHING HAPPENS TO ME by Alex Finlay

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