The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ Second Life

Hardcover Honey's Haunted Bookclub ~ Second Life

A Hardcover Honey Book of the Week Review by Jocelyn

Second Life by S.J. Watson 

I really loved the last S.J. Watson book I read, Before I Go to Sleep, and even enjoyed the movie adaptation, in spite of 83% of the screen time going to Nicole Kidman and her vain attempts to furrow her brow (and I say that as a sister in Botox). So, I was excited to read this follow up, Second Life and its cool cover helped spur me to pick it up quickly.

I read it in just a day or two and I was SUPER into it as it began. Our heroine is Julia Plummer, married mother of one and talented photographer in England. As the book opens, Julia is learning that her sister Kate has been killed in Paris, seemingly a random mugging gone wrong. Julia’s guilt is intense, especially as her teenage son Connor is actually Kate’s child, who Julia took over care of when he was just three. Recently Kate has been calling and asking to see Connor more often, and Julia is terrified that she was going to ask for custody to be returned. Julia knows that she and her husband Hugh (was there ever a more British name than Hugh??) are a more stable environment for Connor, but would the courts see it that way?

OK, so Kate is gone, and Julia finds some solace in talking to Kate’s best friend, Anna, who, like Kate, is a single woman looking for love. Anna tells Julia that Kate had been spending a lot of time chatting to people on a site called “Encounterz” (ugh that NAME). Julia strongly feels that perhaps someone from said site could have been the person who killed her sister, and she is determined to find that person and bring them to justice. She logs on as Kate and finds her friends list, then creates her own profile and starts chatting with people immediately, one man in particular who she quickly grows attached to, Lukas.

Lukas and Julia strike up a friendship that turns flirty almost immediately. And here I felt greatly immersed in the book. I have several online-only friends and I can see how things could get out of hand if you weren’t careful to keep your boundaries in place. Lucky for me, I am usually only talking horror movies, not faking a profile on a dating site to track my sister’s killer – knock on wood, huh?  So inevitably Julia is drawn into a real-life relationship with Lukas, which includes lying to her husband, hiding bruises from rough sex, sharing dark fantasies and fears with Lukas that she doesn’t feel able to share with her husband. And then, Lukas starts showing signs of being not quite who he said he was (WHAT? An online boyfriend gone wrong? I am SHOCKED, I tell you, SHOCKED!) and then things go from bad to worse to batshit crazy in the last third of the book.

Part of my problem with this book is that Julia had a LOT going on. I mean, A LOT.  She had a tragic backstory riddled with drugs and a boyfriend who died. Her husband, a successful doctor, is being investigated for malpractice. Her son has an online girlfriend of his own. Her friend’s husband hits on her at a party and takes her denial way too hard. AND she’s a recovering alcoholic who seems to be presented with cocktails at least once on any given day.

I don’t know – if this was a Lifetime movie, I’d say your time would be well spent, but as a book, I think it may work better as an audiobook? Three stars out of five for keeping me turning the pages even as I shook my head at the implausibility of nearly every single character and plot twist.