TL;DR: I didn’t dislike it, but it’s one of those books. You know the ones. The ones where a good story is spoiled by either too much build up or an open ending – and this has both.
I know it’s supposed to make you think, or let everyone debate what they think happened, but I much prefer a complete story. Don’t wuss out on writing an ending because people might not like it, authors.
Slow build up and disappointing ending aside, it’s still a good story that links a woman’s affair and investigation into her sister’s murder without going the most obvious route. Though if you were to ask me which of his books you should read, I would say Before I Go To Sleep. ♥♥♥/5
Meet Julia. In her first life, she was a photographer, alcoholic and junkie, living with her junkie boyfriend who she followed to Berlin in order to live with him and the usual colourful characters .
When her boyfriend dies of an overdose, she calls the one person she can think of that might help her: the man who becomes her husband and helps her create a clean, (mostly) alcohol-less second life where she’s a photographer with a surgeon husband, teenage son and best friend.
Third Life/The Events of This Book That Make Her Appreciate Her Second Life More
The actual story (the above was backstory) kicks off with the murder of Julia’s sister. Feeling that not enough is being done to find the murderer, she decides to take matters into her own hands by posing as her sister on an online dating site… because of course the murderer is going to send his victim a message wondering what she’s doing online.
She does get a message. A message that leads to her being sucked into an online (and then real-life) affair. While this is a large focus of the book and does well to illustrate what I imagine it must really be like for people who go from a few innocent messages to full-blown affairs – and how badly it can sometimes end – it unfortunately constantly needs to be tied to the sister’s death. By the end, it does all link together, but I still wonder if it would have been better as a straightforward thriller about an affair gone wrong.
You aren’t supposed to completely hate her, she knows she shouldn’t be having an affair and she feels guilty, later trying to put an end to it and make more time for her husband and son. As they say, you don’t know what you’ve got until you almost lose it – suddenly her boring husband and distant son aren’t so bad when she’s about to lose them.
Credit Where It’s Due
I do like that the husband wasn’t just there for the sake of it; instead he gets his own subplot involving a complaint from one of his patients, and he plays a role in the main story towards the end. It makes him a more fleshed out character and it means that Julia isn’t just talking about how she knows she shouldn’t be doing what she’s doing: she’s torn between the excitement of her affair and supporting her husband the way she knows she should.
Once it gets to the point, in part three (of five. We’re talking page 183!), it’s a pretty good ride until the slightly disappointing ending where the author chooses to leave it open rather than tie everything up properly. The first two parts focus on backstory, the sister’s murder, and the realistically slow start to the affair – which makes sense once the proper action starts, but feels really slow while you’re getting through it. Unless, of course, you’re someone who’s fine with a slow build up.
What did you think? Who wants to be the first to start a debate about what you think happened after the last line?