My Second Death by Lydia Cooper

‘For in that sleep of death what dreams may come…’

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 and a half!

my second death‘And then there’s me, the middle child. I live in the garage and say “fuck” too much, but I never whine about the rain or the cold, I rarely eat dead animals, and I haven’t killed a man since I was ten.’

Mickey has been to enough shrinks and therapists in her life to know she’s not ‘normal’. But she’d like to be, and her great fear is that she’s destined to become a serial killer. She dreams about blood, murder and torture and battles every day to make sure these dreams don’t turn into reality. So when she receives an anonymous note which leads her to the discovery of a horrifically mutilated corpse, she doesn’t react the way you or I would…

Mickey is a fascinating character. Billed by the publisher’s blurb as a cross between Salander and Dexter, she’s much more than either of these. The story is told in the first person, so we get inside Mickey’s mind and it’s a dark and disturbing place to be. But the author’s skill lies in making us see past the horrors Mickey conjures for us to catch a glimpse of the vulnerable, damaged soul beneath. There are aspects of the book that are truly gruesome – and a warning: there is a scene of animal cruelty that is upsetting, though I felt it was in context and the author managed to handle it in a way that kept it just this side of unbearable.

Lydia Cooper (courtesy of F+W Media)
Lydia Cooper
(courtesy of F+W Media)

To some extent, this reads like a coming-of-age novel. As Mickey tries to get to the truth of what happened to the victim, she is forced into contact with people and begins to re-evaluate herself and her early life. Gradually the veneer is stripped off her seemingly perfect family, and it becomes clear that Mickey isn’t the odd-woman-out as much as we, and she, thought. The author never has Mickey overtly question how much impact her family has had on her personality but nonetheless the question hangs in the air.

And in case I’ve made the book sound too bleak and horrible, I should mention there’s some really good humour in there too –

‘When she finishes decorating the platter I say, “That looks really great.” She looks at me and the skin across her forehead smoothes out. She starts to smile. I worry that she might take my compliment for an invitation to tell me about her grandchildren’s tonsillitis. So I say, “I mean, for pre-digested subcutaneous fat deposits from hormone injected animals.” ‘

And some wonderful use of language – on the subject of the house still containing the undiscovered mutilated corpse ‘A house gravid with death.’

There are problems with the book too, the main one being that the cast of characters is small and there aren’t enough red herrings, which meant that the solution wasn’t a surprise. But the writing is excellent and the plot shows real originality. I read the book in two longish sessions and was fascinated, appalled, entertained and moved in equal measure. A dark and difficult read, not for the squeamish, but a debut that makes me both eager and terrified to see where this author takes me in the future.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher.

Amazon UK Link
Amazon US Link

6 thoughts on “My Second Death by Lydia Cooper

  1. I am always happy when an author takes an original approach to creating a protagonist. And Mickey certainly sound original. When it’s done well, I like black humour too. So on those scores this book interests me. But…thank you for the warning about animal cruelty. I have a big problem with that kind of plot point. I’ll have to decide whether I’ll give this one a miss on that point. Still, you’ve done an excellent review, for which thanks.

    • I have trouble with animal cruelty in plots too and found this difficult. It started me wondering, though, why I can read of the fictional murders of human beings without batting too many eyelids and yet get upset when something bad happens to a fictional animal. I haven’t really answered my own question on that one yet…

      • That’s actually a very good question. I feel exactly the same way you do (unless the humans are children – that truly upsets me). I wonder if it’s because animals and children are so much more vulnerable… Haven’t figured that one out yet.

        • Normally I don’t like fictional child murder either, but I enjoyed SJ Bolton’s new one which is about a serial killer who targets young boys. I think the reason it didn’t bother me so much in that one is that Bolton steered clear of letting us get to know the past victims and didn’t concentrate on the grief of their parents. Instead she looked at future potential victims and as a result got the tension without the emotional distress.

  2. I am reminded of a book by Joyce Carol Oates that begins: “I was a child murderer.” And yes, Ms. Oates means to charge that sentence with a double meaning so that readers question just what is meant. It’s an intriguing beginning, but I can’t recall the title because I didn’t end up reading the book. With that said, I have a feeling that I might take a pass on this book, although it does sound interesting. And I love the courage that it took to write it.

    • I’m not doing a very good job of selling this one from the looks of it! 😉

      I’ve never read any Joyce Carol Oates, but it’s a good first line – I’ll have to investigate her, I think.

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