I'd like advice. I'm aware that many find the "dead all along" trope to be cliche. In searching for advice, most revolves around a protagonist's interactions as, or with, a ghost, which doesn't quite fit my case.
In brief summary: my protagonist's main goal and desire is finding a friend she was separated from as a child. Through her efforts, and many compounded conflicts, she unintentionally caused her friend's death.
There is a larger scope to the plot point, as well as political critique. Though I'm concerned it may just go all over readers heads and result in disappointment.
Any advice on going about this? Red flags to avoid? Should I cue the reader in before the MC? Develop the death into a mystery? General thoughts?