Victim or the Crime - The Day Before Jerry Died

A Grateful Dead Thriller

Fiction - Mystery - Murder
683 Pages
Reviewed on 05/23/2023
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

About the Author
Paul Sanders is an award-winning True Crime author who draws on his real-life experiences as a juror to craft gritty, exhilarating tales that take readers on page-turning thrill rides. Paul’s story began in 2014 when he was first called to serve as a death penalty juror in the trial of Marissa DeVault. Upon the completion of the case, he wrote his first critically acclaimed True Crime book, “Brain Damage: A Juror’s Tale – The Hammer Killing Trial”.

Now the author of multiple popular True Crime books that tell the spectacular stories of some of America’s most high-profile murder cases, Paul hopes to entertain and enthral his readers with larger-than-life characters and explosive tales that bring every case to life. Paul holds more than 30 awards for his books, including Gold Medal Winner eLit Awards in True Crime, Silver Medal Reader's Favorite Nonfiction Historical, and Bronze Medal Best Book Awards in Law and Book Festival Awards.

His new book, "Victim or the Crime - The Day Before Jerry Died: A Grateful Dead Thriller" has received multiple awards including a Winner at the Paris Book Festival (2022), Honorable Mention at the Hollywood Book Festival (2022), Runner-up at the Southern California Book Festival (2023) and the American Writing Awards for General Fiction, Mystery/Suspense and Thriller/Adventure (2022).

Paul has made numerous TV and radio appearances, including appearing on NBC Oxygen’s “Snapped” and I.D. Discovery’s “Scorned”.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Within the span of about 24 hours, Dan Wilcox finds that his mother has been murdered, his long-lost father is dead, and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead has had a fatal heart attack. It is the last of those three that finally makes him cry. And so begins Victim or the Crime - The Day Before Jerry Died by Paul Sanders. The book weaves between the events of Dan's childhood that led to his separation from his sister and mother, his father's abandonment, and his meaningful relationship with his brother Mark. Dan's youth is fraught with abuse, neglect, and outright contempt from those whose love is of the utmost importance. All of this is hinged on the fact that his mother's murder looks a lot like it was done by him. Dan has no recollection of what transpired. While on the run, Dan seeks answers, and the backstory of his life and that of his family unfurls itself, painting a picture of a troubled man who finds professional redemption but still grapples with the ghosts of the past, who is in the biggest trouble of his life once again.

"The Grateful Dead tune playing right now? It's called, Mama Tried. Want me to turn it up?" There is a scene where Dan's mother nearly kills his sister Louise in a violent rage that is absolutely heartbreaking, and as a reader, I had this uncomfortable moment where I was convinced that Mom deserved to have a knife thrust into her horrible neck. This is when you know a novel is an excellently crafted piece of literature as the ability to justify a violent death is no easy feat, but Paul Sanders gets the job done in Victim or the Crime. Based on the title, I expected going in that the events would be replayed in their entirety within a courtroom setting and through the primary point of view of a juror. I understand now the significance of the title but readers should note, to the book's extreme benefit, that this isn't the case (no pun intended). The point of view is largely omniscient when Dan's childhood is depicted, wherein scenes like the one mentioned occur in detail and Dan is then called from upstairs. These are the retellings that have the feeling of being for a juror's benefit, but from Dan's perspective, we do experience his search for answers, which happens alongside his therapist Diana who becomes a fugitive with him. Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead are never too far off in the background, and this murder mystery is one of the most beautifully twisted works I've read this year. Very highly recommended.

Asher Syed

Victim or the Crime - The Day Before Jerry Died by Paul Sanders is a tale of suspense and self-discovery, starting when Dan Wilcox finds himself with his mother stabbed to death, and blood on his hands. He doesn't think he would commit matricide but can't remember and needs time to figure it out. Dan does what any famous author who loves the Grateful Dead would do: he runs away with his psychiatrist. In her professional capacity, Diana wants to work through what happened too. She knows Dan has had more lows than highs but the extent of the trauma inflicted by his mother and his father abandoning them is just the tip of the iceberg. Jerry Garcia caps off the trinity of death, and Dan barely has time to grieve while looking to prove his guilt or innocence to himself.

Paul Sanders crafts a gripping tale in Victim or the Crime - The Day Before Jerry Died, one that keeps urging readers to sort out the enigma of Dan's guilt or innocence alongside the protagonist himself. The interplay between suspense and introspection infuses the narrative by heightening the stakes, especially when the police start to close in and shots are fired. In the interests of full disclosure, I am from a generation where all I knew of the last of the mainstream Deadheads was that they are our grandparents now, but Sanders made me want to learn about them. Now I can proudly say that I know all the words to Bertha. With this in mind, the tie-in to the death of Dan's abusive past and his rebirth as a man in his own right, with the ability to stand up for himself and find the answers that eluded pre-rebirth Dan, is not lost on me. Dan is no longer the Wharf Rat and has agency enough to not only pull himself out of a dark hole, with Diana's help, of course, but to set the record straight about what his mother was, what she did, and what he realizes happened in the house where his mother died.

K.C. Finn

Victim or the Crime: The Day Before Jerry Died is a work of fiction in the murder mystery, legal thriller, and suspense subgenres. It forms part of the Juror's Perspective series penned by author Paul Sanders and is best suited to the mature adult reading audience. This intense thriller novel begins with the nightmarish events that lead our rich and famous protagonist, Dan Wilcox, into a spiral of grief and confusion after he wakes up covered in his mother’s blood. Together with his psychiatrist, Diana, Dan must unravel the dark history of his own family and face some nasty truths about his heritage to find the truth and save himself from incarceration.

Author Paul Sanders has crafted a sensational work of mystery and thrills which revolves around a powerful psychological drama at its core. Dan Wilcox seems at first to be the typical privileged wealthy guy, and that sets the dynamic off at a really interesting angle as we see him undergo not only the trauma of losing his mother but the horrifying possibility that he might have killed her and doesn’t remember. This fractured psyche is captured skilfully by Sanders with every well-placed moment of dialogue and thought presentation, and Dan’s inner tension matches the pace of the novel as he comes under increasing pressure from the cops on his tail. Overall, Victim or the Crime: The Day Before Jerry Died is a fantastic standalone read that also adds to a fantastic collection of legal thrillers, and I can’t wait to see what comes next from this talented author.