Meet Julia, a woman who has a nice husband, a lovely home and a teenage son, she is also a recovering alcoholic. As the novel opens she goes to a viewing of her most successful photo and has to confront the fact that her early promise hasn’t been fulfilled and she vows to do more than simply take commercial photos as she has been doing.
Julia’s life is shattered when her younger sister Kate is murdered in what seems to be a random act in a backstreet in Paris. After the funeral she visits Anna, Kate’s flatmate who lets her know that Kate had been in the habit of meeting men on-line for sex. Struggling with her grief and fighting the urge to drink Julia is being less than supportive to Connor her son who is also struggling to come to terms with the loss of Kate. Having found the site-name and password to the sex-site she decides to log on, after all she doesn’t really believe that her sister was taken in some random accident and she becomes convinced that she can track down Kate’s killer. For some reason she isn’t in contact with the police, leaving her masterful husband to talk to the consulate and relay the information on the investigation.
I found the first half of this book to be quite slow-moving with endless scenes of angst and repetition as Julia talked herself round in circles, hiding details not only from her husband but her friends too, however once I got into the second half the tension ratcheted up along with the pace and I became quite immersed in the book and could quite easily kept reading to the end in one sitting. S J Watson certainly knows how to create good characters, I didn’t necessarily feel much sympathy for Julia, quite frankly her actions were only ever going to end in disaster, but I did care what happened and I believed in her even though she made some unbelievably stupid choices. I really enjoyed this author’s debut novel, Before I Go To Sleep, and the same style that invites compulsive reading is evident in this book and the mystery just as well executed.
This book also touches on a very modern phenomenon, cyber-sex and it was an education to see how Julia struggled to work out the etiquette to this other world. There are some steamy sex scenes in this book and although none of them were too graphic, there moments when I felt distinctly uncomfortable. Now in my reviews I usually avoid talking about the ending being wary of giving spoilers, however I just know that this one will divide opinion amongst its readers so I’m just going to say, I liked it precisely because I can’t help but mull over the how and why, which is why I enjoy psychological thrillers.
I will be recommending this one to those readers who like good writing, don’t need to like or agree with the main character and like a book to offer something in the way of a surprise.
I’d like to thank the publishers Random House for allowing me to experience some of the pitfalls of modern life from the safety of these pages in return for my honest opinion. Second Life is published today, 12 February 2015