Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
S.J. Watson’s first psychological thriller, Before I Go to Sleep, was a sensational success on publication, and followed by the film with Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth. Second Life looks set to follow its success.
The narrator is photographer Julia Plummer, living with her surgeon husband Hugh and their teenaged son, Connor. They seem a contented family but that is only one life; behind that lies a second life built on problems from the past. One of them is that Connor is not their own son but adopted after his mother, Julia’s younger sister Kate, could no longer look after him; the other issue lying in the past is Julia’s former life with her lover Marcus. Julia has come to terms with neither problem, but the issue is forced when her sister, living in Paris, decides she wants to reclaim Connor. Now comes the horrific news that Kate has been found murdered in a Paris alleyway.
Love for her sister combined with guilt over Connor sends Julia to Paris to stay with Anna, Kate’s flatmate and friend. What she learns from Anna pitches her headlong into a chase for the truth regardless of danger to herself as she becomes increasingly at the mercy of her obsession and torn between her two lives.
With its twists and turns, the pace of the novel is tremendous. (There is one quarrel I would pick with the plot but to mention it would be a spoiler.) The strength of the novel lies in its structure and fast moving action; the characters themselves aren’t as memorable as the plot, but even though it’s sometimes hard to identify with Julia, there was no question of my abandoning my interest in what happens to her.