🙂 🙂 😐
Julia’s life is pretty good. She has a husband and son whom she loves and who love her. But her comfortable life is smashed into pieces when her beloved younger sister, Kate, is murdered in a seemingly random attack in an alley in Paris. When the weeks drag by and the police seem no nearer finding the murderer, Julia decides to take matters into her own hands. She has learned from Kate’s friend, Anna, that Kate had been using online sites to indulge in fantasy sex with strangers, and had sometimes met up with men she’d encountered there. So Julia decides to visit some of these sites herself to see if she can trace any of the men who knew Kate. Soon she has embroiled herself in a situation that threatens everything she holds dear, and she has to try to find a way out…
Oh dear! I’m sure there will be a million glowing reviews for this book, and it undoubtedly has some good points. But it’s yet another of these woeful misery-fests that have taken over bookworld recently – a first person present tense monologue from a narrator who is utterly miserable even before her sister is murdered, so you can imagine how cheery she is afterwards. There really ought to be some kind of rating system on the back of books to let people know in advance:
Sex – yes, lots and lots, both real and virtual, but not overly graphic
Foul language – occasional, but I’ve read far worse
Length – roughly twice as long as it needed to be
Humour – none, nada, not the slightest glimmer, not even unintentional
Misery – oh yes! Plenty! Enough to reduce the happiness quotient of the planet by at least 5%
Credibility – not much, and gets less as the book wears on
The first half of the book really drags with nothing much happening except Julia telling us how grief-stricken she is. A brutal edit of this section could have made a huge difference to the whole book. There were so many points where I really just didn’t want to go on with it – had it not been a review copy, I’d undoubtedly have given up. Not only is Julia dealing with her grief and her feelings of inadequacy as a parent to her adopted son, but she’s also a recovering alcoholic, so every few pages we are treated to her wishing she could have a drink and talking herself out of it. Am I really the only person in the world who is bored, bored, bored with reading about alcoholics? Especially when, as with this one, it had very little relevance to the plot.
The second half is much better once the plot finally begins to move. It’s still over-stuffed with Julia’s self-pitying whining, now also over the situation she has got herself into through her own stupidity. But the pace picks up and, so long as the reader can suspend disbelief, it builds quite a good momentum and some real tension towards the end. It’s not a plot to over-think since it is fundamentally silly, based on one ridiculous coincidence after another, but Watson writes well enough to keep the reader just about on-side. I imagine the ending will be divisive – personally, I was just rather glad to get to the end at all…
Overall, I’m reluctant to rate the book too low because, incomprehensible though it may be to me, I know there are lots of people who enjoy this kind of unremitting misery tale, and it’s as good as most of the ones I’ve read. My preference for a bit of light to contrast with the shade has undoubtedly coloured my view, as has my dislike for FPPT narratives. So while I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it, I won’t wholeheartedly condemn it either. I really enjoyed Watson’s first outing in Before I Go to Sleep and, although I found this one disappointing, he still shows the writing style and skill in characterisation that made that one so enjoyable. Here’s hoping that now that the always tricky second novel is out of the way, he’ll come back with a bang in his next.
NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Random House Transworld.