"You've Been Warned" is one of those inside-out, surreal mysteries where the reader is left wondering exactly what is -- or was -- real. But the author gives us the key to the entire thing in the first line of the book. It begins, "It's way too early in the morning for dead people."
Enter, the Photographer
Kristin, the main protagonist, is a hopeful photographer. She takes her faithful Leica R9 with her everywhere, photographing faces, hoping for the perfect shot that will catapult her into a successful career. Unfortunately, no on has discovered her yet. She lives in a shabby apartment, hounded by a nosy neighbor and a water heater that often doesn't work.
Romance with a Twist
Kristin is nanny to two adorable youngsters. Her employer is a fashion-conscious woman who seems to have minimal time for her stepchildren. Their father, Michael, is Kristin's boyfriend. He has offered to get her a new apartment in a safer neighborhood, or to set her up with her own photography studio, but Kristin wants to do it all herself. She hopes that one day Michael will get rid of his wife, and she will have him and the two children all to herself.
Hero or Villain?
That should make her the villainess -- but does it? As the story progresses, Kristin wakes repeatedly with a recurring nightmare of four body bags being taken from the Falcon Hotel. In each one, there seems to be something she should do or should have done. She approaches the scene, snapping pictures using her faithful Leica. As she watches, one of the body bags seems to be unzipping from the inside.
Kristin sees dead people -- her father, who committed suicide; a cop who killed his partners; the doctor who molested her when she was a teen. She sees cockroaches in her closet, her photographs develop a strange transparency, a man warns her not to harm people, and strange music keeps playing inside her head. She visits her former counselor, who screams at her for having left treatment. While shopping, she looks across an intersection and sees her lover's wife with a man that is not Michael. She photographs the lovers sharing an intense kiss.
Four Body Bags
Kristin shows the picture to Michael. He becomes livid with one of his characteristic dramatic rages. As the story winds to a climax with a final dramatic scene, you realize exactly what you have been privileged to share; and realize, that it was, indeed, a day that started too early for dead people.
- You've Been Warned; James Patterson; 2007