When a first novel has been so successful, there is always a good deal of anticipation about the second. Will it be as good? Can the author do it again? S. J. Watson’s first novel Before I Go to Sleep has sold over four million copies, was awarded Crime Thriller of the year, won the Crime Writer’s Association award for best debut novel, and was made into an excellent film starring Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth.
His second novel suffers in comparison to the first. I found myself waiting for the brilliantly executed twist, that “I never saw it coming” moment, that sadly never came in Second Life. It is undoubtedly a plausible, believable thriller about Julia, a woman whose sister is murdered and who, because she cannot quite let go, feels compelled to investigate a little too far on her own. Her curiosity takes her into dangerous territory, into an online world where you are never quite sure who you are talking to. Or whom you might meet.
The characters are well drawn. Julia, the grieving sister, has a past history of addiction to alcohol and drugs and is always fighting to avoid a drink of wine. Everyone else in her world seems to exist on a diet of white wine, her husband included. No one feels too bad drinking in front of her, but are pretty harsh when she does succumb. Watson manages to create a believable and gradual fall into an increasingly dangerous situation, which spirals more and more out of Julia’s control. She is not haunted so much by fears, but by a relentless need to know who killed her sister.
I did enjoy the book, it was a good read and as we moved closer to the finale, it was impossible to stop turning the pages. But then at the end I found myself needing a little more. I felt a little cheated because I wasn’t quite certain that I really understood all the motives, there were lose ends and the motivation of the menacing character Julia encountered online did not quite adequately explain what he had done. I finished the book feeling a bit cheated, a little short changed, like two of my dozen eggs were missing when I got the box home. I just needed to feel that I understood more of the why.