By all accounts, SJ Watson’s novel, Before I Go To Sleep, signaled the auspicious debut of a promising new talent in the crime fiction genre. Anticipation has been at fever pitch as anxious fans wait for his second novel. With the publication of Second Life in the United Kingdom next week, that wait is over.
Second Life is very much a novel of today. With a plot that involves the online world of virtual communications, it could not have been written before the boom in computer use by average individuals. While some of the plot developments are not exactly earth-shatteringly original, SJ Watson throws in enough variables to the “catfish-like” plot to defy the reader’s expectations and entertain throughout.
SJ Watson again proves his ability to successfully enter the mind of his female protagonist. Second Life is the story of Julia – a wife, mother, and sister – who wants to be all things to all people. She is a recovering alcoholic who has an addictive personality and is constantly struggling with her vices. An unusual set of circumstances place her on a dangerous path.
When Julia learns of her sister’s death, she internalizes her guilt and feelings of letting her sister down. When it becomes clear that the police have no leads, she decides to start her own exploration into her sister’s secret life. With the help of her sister’s best friend, Sophie, Julia is exposed to a whole new world she never knew existed – the world of online dating and cyber sex.
Julia’s forays into this exotic new life bring her into contact with a mysterious man named Lukas. The attention and flattery which Lukas showers upon her convinces Julia to take things to the next level, at the risk of the idyllic life she already has with her husband and family.
To reveal any of the other twists and turns of this intricate plotline would do a disservice to the reader. Suffice it to say, SJ Watson puts the reader into the role of voyeur and leaves them helpless to do anything to alter the ultimate outcome.
Since this is a book themed on image versus reality, it is only appropriate that Watson scatters the book with many examples of how this plays out in our everyday lives – most of them being completely benign. There are many aspects of ourselves that we only choose to show to certain people. Even our clothing choices can be viewed as an unconscious (or not) decision that alter how people view us. Julia’s career choice as a photographer is yet another subtle element of this idea within the book which adds depth to the overall effect.
Second Life should satisfy fans who have been waiting for SJ Watson’s next novel. More than anything, it reinforces his talent for writing crime fiction and will leave readers craving more.
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No review was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.