Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei, Jeremy Tiang (Translated by)

This book can be found here on Goodreads and here on Amazon

This ARC was provided for review from the publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review

This book features the following topics/genres – Fiction / Cyberbullying / Hacking / Suicide

Publisher’s release date: 18 February 2020

“Are you brave enough to die?” – Siu Man’s killer.

The premise for this book follows the oldest daughter in a family of two, Nga-Yee, who loses her younger sister to suicide. The problem is Nga-Yee doesn’t believe her sister would do such a thing. As the story progresses, she begins her own investigation into the darkness behind her sister’s death and the possibility that someone had purposefully targeted her sister. Bigger questions arise, such as why was her sister being targetted and bullied in the first place? Had she done something wrong? Was her sister’s innocence all a facade? Did she really know her sister at all?

The character of Nga-Yee could literally be any older sister doing what’s best for her sibling. The backdrop to the story is the city of Hong Kong in 2015, and at this point in time, the thought of a young person being cyberbullied isn’t all that uncommon. It is the landscape with which most young people are expected to traverse in the digital age. It shouldn’t be a normal occurrence but happens more often than people would like to admit. Nga-Yee is definitely way out of her league with this unfortunate circumstance she now finds herself in, and there’s no way she’s going to be able to uncover the truth without help from outside sources. And that is when the story really starts to fly!

Nga-Yee as a character is mostly well-written. She is a very loyal and dutiful daughter on the surface, but she doesn’t really strike me as the very “sisterly” type. As the story continues, we begin to unravel not only Siu Man’s past but also the skeletons in other people’s closets, including Nga-Yee. The author provides us with a microscopic look at the relationships that Siu Man had and how each one impacted her life, whether for the better or for the worst. This is definitely one of the finer aspects of the book and a credit to the author. I was happy to experience a story that covered all the bases and didn’t leave anything out, forcing me to fill in the gaps. It allows you, as the reader, to get a much better understanding of the world in which these characters inhabit and the consequences of their actions both on themselves and each other. It’s compelling writing.

This brings me to the character only known as “N”. Right from the beginning, N is a complex character and an important one. He is the only reason why Nga-Yee can discover the truth behind her sister’s death. N is the lifeline for Nga-Yee, even if she chooses to ignore that fact. Their relationship is scorching and cold, funny and annoying all at once. Nga-Yee’s incessant badgering of N does get a little tiresome (as it happens in almost every interaction between them), and this is the least likeable trait of Nga-Yee’s character.

The identity of Siu Man’s killer is obviously the main driver behind the plot. I liked how the author doesn’t make it easy for you to discover who was responsible for Siu Man’s death. It’s not at all obvious. Putting together the identity of the “bad guy” was like putting together a puzzle. Some pieces fit perfectly while others lead nowhere, much like Nga-Yee’s investigation. I found myself asking questions throughout – will the killer be discovered, and if so, how? The questions alone are enough to keep your eyes glued to the pages.

The use of technology is also a huge driver behind the story progression. I found this aspect of the book extremely interesting, and it kept me invested right until the very end. Not every book you read can do this. In fact, quite a lot of books don’t. Having something as interesting as this to sink my teeth into helped make the experience all the better (as I am a huge fan of anything tech-related). The use of mobile phones as a catalyst in this story is great and sets up the “stage” for N to begin doing his thing and slowly unravelling the clues to finding out the killer’s identity. There are many hacking references throughout the book, which the author does a fine job of breaking down for you, just in case you’re not a tech-head. Understanding how N can obtain the information he acquires is crucial to understanding the nature of the world that Siu Man lived in and how alienated Nga Yee felt about it all. Once N provided solid leads for Nga-Yee, it soon became clear how out of her depth she really was and how much she relied on N to close the gaping wound in her life caused by her sister’s untimely demise.

The information that is eventually uncovered leads back to almost everyone Siu Man was involved with, including friends, acquaintances, teachers and others who didn’t seem to have any connection at all to Siu Man. Or did they? The most interesting aspect of this is just how many people Siu Man connected with. No stone is left unturned. This is the heart of the story, where everything really does become quite twisted and even more thrilling! If you’re interested in reading about how much of an influence technology can have on our everyday lives mixed up with a twisted, modern-day thriller, this book will not disappoint—definitely, one of my favourite books to read this year.





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