After the First Death

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After the First Death
After the First Death.gif
First edition
Author Robert Cormier
Country United States
Language English
Genre Young Adult, Psychological Thriller
Publisher Pantheon Books
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 233
ISBN 0-440-20835-1
OCLC 23153589

After the First Death (1979) is a suspense novel for young adults by American author Robert Cormier. The focus is on the complex relationships that develop between the various characters.


After the First Death describes the terrorist hijacking of a summer camp bus full of children. The main characters include Kate, a high school student driving the bus, Miro, one of the terrorists, and Ben, the son of a general for an anti-terrorism group. The story is mostly written from the point of view of Kate, Miro, and Ben, switching back and forth, and brief sections are told from the point of view of some other characters.

Kate is driving the bus when it is hijacked by four terrorists, Miro, Artkin, Antibbe and Stroll. The terrorists force Kate to drive the bus to an old, worn-down railroad bridge, where a drawn-out siege begins, the terrorists threatening to kill one child for every attack by the police or death of a terrorist. The terrorists are working to "free" their homeland, which is never named specifically, but it could be assumed from their descriptions to be a Middle Eastern or an African country.[1]


Courage, endurance, survival, resilience, sacrifice, morality, and wisdom.[2]


Odd Chapters

Ben Marchand is a teenager who is the son of a general for an anti-terrorism group. He is waiting in his room at Castle, his boarding school, waiting for his mother and father to arrive. He is conveying his thoughts to the reader and recalling the events before an incident where he was shot. The incident was the same incident that is explored in the even numbered chapters.

In the middle of the novel, the perspective switches from Ben to his father, General Mark Marchand, who left his son's room after a brief conversation and came back to find it empty. He details the series of events that lead him volunteering Ben to deliver a stone to the terrorists on the bus. This resulted in Ben being shot and eventually committing suicide.

The last odd numbered chapter is a conversation between Ben and his father, which reveals that Ben is already dead, with his father seemingly imagining he is alive and attempting to revive his son in his head in order to ask for his forgiveness. 'Ben' reveals that they are not actually in Castle but a mental hospital. This leaves the reader wondering if Ben was even alive writing any of the novel, as Mark could have been writing from the perspective of Ben all along.

Even Chapters

Miro is a Middle Eastern terrorist who is also a teenager. He and three other terrorists, Artkin, Antibbe and Stroll hijack a bus full of preschoolers on a trip to school camp. Miro is assigned to kill the driver of the bus.

Artkin starts handing candies laced with sedatives to the children, knocking them unconscious. One child is killed, Kevin McMann, by the drugs, most likely of an overdose or heart condition. Because of this, Artkin orders Miro not to kill the bus driver right away so that the bus drivers can keep the children on the bus calm.

Finally, the bus arrives at the bridge. Miro explains to the bus driver, Kate, that he hijacked the bus so he could free his homeland. However, Kate is still determined to escape. She finds two solutions, to use Raymond, a child who has not taken the candy and the keys to the bus.

Kate attempts to drive the bus away from the bridge but the bus's engine suddenly stops. The bus spends the night on the bridge.

The next morning, it is revealed that the ransom is starting to be received. However, the terrorists still need proof about the capture of Sedeete, the leader of the terrorist group.

A few minutes afterwards, Antibbe was accidentally shot by a sniper, who acted on reflexes. The terrorists kill Raymond for revenge. Ben Marchand is sent with a stone from their homeland for proof of Sedeete's capture, and to stall for time and wait for a signal from Sedeete. Ben is tortured for information, and gives the terrorists incorrect information. Soldiers surround the bus and attack the terrorists. They kill all the terrorists except Miro. However, Ben is also shot.

Miro and Kate escape to the bushes. Kate tries to convince Artkin is Miro’s father. Miro does not believe her and shoots her in the heart with a revolver, as he realized she had been manipulating him the whole time. In the end, Miro escapes the incident on a truck.


  1. ^ Cormier, Robert. After the First Death. 
  2. ^ Cormier, Robert. After the First Death.