Death. Drama. And the ultimate existential crisis. What more could you want from a book?


Sarah Smith’s debut novel, 12 Steps to a Long and Fulfilling Death, is a captivating mystery following the journey of Stacey, a character with plenty of questionable relationships and a relatable personality (which is probably the reason why I devoured it so quickly).


Set in Los Angeles, Stacey’s complex life is meticulously examined after her car accident on Mulholland Drive that, by detectives Beaufontaine and Garafino, is deemed a murder. Stacey’s interactions with her fiancé, ex-boyfriend, high school friends, LA girlfriends, father, even her psychologist, are put under the microscope by the detectives. Sarah Smith introduces a unique take on the investigation with Stacey as a ghost, providing her own perspective of ante-mortem events.


This murder mystery ghost story, delves deep into the protagonist’s flaws, revealing aspects of her life only clear after death. It’s quite humerous, a ghost having an existential crisis because they can’t move on and be at peace. It becomes Stacey’s mission to work out her killer, as she attempts to make sense of it all and help the living do so as well. Sarah Smith’s novel highlights the purpose of living a fulfilling life, facing your truths, and being wary of the people you let into your life.


The book weaves between ante-mortem to post-mortem versions of Stacey’s life, some events happening days or even years beforehand to give the audience some context to the character relationships and ultimately, murder suspects. Because it jumps around so much, I sometimes found myself having to remind myself of who certain characters were however, the varying time frames made the book very fun to read and piece together, like you were solving the case yourself.


Without spoiling the ending, I was really satisfied with who Sarah Smith deemed the killer and how each character developed. There were definitely relatable characters in Stacey’s life however, it was interesting to find that whilst reading, not many characters were likeable. At all. And as I continued throughout the book, it was scandalous to see how friends and family members dealt with Stacey’s death from both the detective’s perspective and Stacey’s viewing from the ether.


Despite the title, I thought that 12 Steps to a Long and Fulfilling Death took an unexpected delve into the supernatural elements however, I think it was written well and, after interviewing Smith, made more sense as to why it became so spooky. This thriller kept me on edge with all its twists, turns, and time jumps.


I would highly recommend this book for readers who love a bit of drama, mystery, and thriller.


Check it out yourself via Ultimo Press:

Melanie Jenkins

Melanie Jenkins

Hey, I’m Mel Jenkins, your Editor of the Opus Magazine and fellow student, studying a Bachelor of Communications. When I’m not working, studying, or playing netball, you’ll find me at the beach, having a boogie at the club, or napping. I also LOVE camping and exploring new places, so if you have any suggestions for a uni girl on a budget—send some ideas my way!