Second Life by S J Watson

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Second Life by S J Watson

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The follow up to the amazing Before I Go to Sleep is about a woman's search for her dead sister's killer. It may start low key (comparatively) but builds to something exceeding the sum of its parts while matching SJ Watson's superlative talent. A thriller for both genders packing shocks and one heck of a heart-stopping finale.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: February 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0857520197

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Julia lives two lives. Life 1: the wife of surgeon Hugh and adopted parent of her sister Kate's son Connor. Life 2: Secret erotic dating site surfer. It seems a bit extreme but she has good reason as Julia is searching for information while posing under an assumed name. This is the same site on which Kate hung out. Past tense? Yes, Kate's dead and Julia wants to find Kate's killer. Be careful what you wish for, Julia.

S J Watson wrote a debut thriller in 2011, Before I Go To Sleep, masking the author's gender after having written the novel from a woman's viewpoint. The novel was one of the smashes of the year and interviews followed, putting a stop to the guessing. Yes, Steve Watson's ingeniously plotted novel about a woman with amnesia has sold millions of copies globally and in 2014 became a Nicole Kidman/Colin Firth movie. The question is was this beginner's luck? The answer? Oh heck, no! SJ/Steve is riddled with talent and this, his second book, Second Life proves it.

Steve writes people on the edge with a vividness that brings them into our room. Julia is so desperate to find the killer of the kid sister she had always promised to protect that nothing will stand in her way. On the other hand, husband, surgeon Hugh is a stiff upper lipped soldier-er-on-er with set ideas on modes and lengths of bereavement. This conflict of character type slowly opens a chasm between them that works perfectly for what the author is about to put them – and us – through.

I fear that I'll give a clue if not an outright spoiler so I apologise for not describing the other people in the story. Julia may be paranoid but we trump that with our own greater paranoia as we begin to see what's coming and who may be involved. The thing is that, even if we feel we might, we in no way come close to guessing the explosive finale that causes us to put our hands over our mouths in shock and shut our eyes (thereby also dropping the book as a result)!

There are moments in the middle of the tale when we feel this may be turning into an ordinary love triangle. It's not. Even scenes that seem mundane at the time have meaning and resonance later. Remember that SJ is no mere scribe – he's deviously clever. Discount not a single detail for nothing is for nothing.

Whether the reader be man, woman or extremely literate hamster, this is a thriller that delivers a prime freak out. Indeed with further novels planned for 2017 and 2019 it's clear to see (once we've opened our eyes again) that S J Watson will be scaring the willies out of us for a long time to come and, personally, I'm looking forward to the repeated experience.

(Thank you so much to the kind folks at Doubleday for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you haven't read it do please try the crushingly exciting Before I Go To Sleep. If you're already a fan, then try this year's other prospective publishing phenomenon The Ice Twins by the very mysterious SK Tremayne.

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Buy Second Life by S J Watson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Second Life by S J Watson at


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