Message in a Bottle
Who Started The Fire?

AfterwardsAfter reading it in two nights, I’m willing to bet that many Rosamund Lupton fans will like her new novel, Afterwards, even better than her bestselling debut, Sister. I did. The new book is part psychological thriller, part literary fiction, and part tribute to the power of the mother-daughter relationship.

Grace is the mother of Jenny, seventeen, and Adam, eight, both students at an exclusive private school. An arsonist sets fire to the building while Jenny is inside, and Grace runs inside to save her daughter. Both Grace and Jenny end up in the hospital in critical condition.

The story begins when Grace wakes up and realizes she’s hovering over her own body in the ICU. She soon finds Jenny, also wandering the hospital in an out-of-body experience. Together they try to piece together what happened.

Over the course of the novel, the truth challenges the ties that bind their family. When the police accuse Grace’s young son, Adam, of starting the fire, both Grace and Jenny know he’s innocent. As the investigation heats up, the doctors suggest that both Grace and Jenny’s medical conditions might be fatal and irreversible. The clock is ticking.

The mystery is only part of the story, and what Lupton does so well is make the pressure of the situation test the distance Grace will go to save her children. Being a parent means making sacrifices that can seem unimaginable, but when the time comes, Grace will go the distance. That’s what makes the book so moving.

SisterAfterwards is a clear progression of the writing ability Lupton displayed in Sister, which was a story about Bee, who is devastated when her sister Tess is found dead. The police are convinced Tess committed suicide, but Bee is certain her sister was murdered and sets out to solve the crime herself. Lupton takes a similar angle by examining the relationship between sisters as Bee crosses boundaries she could never have imagined. Bee’s love for her sister drives the book to a shocking conclusion.

Both books are told in the voice of the protagonist speaking to their loved one (In Afterwards, Grace telling her story to her husband, and in Sister, Bee addresses Tess). Since the way we speak in our closest relationships is so much more intimate and personal than the way we speak to others in our daily lives, the premise creates an intimacy and deep understanding of the characters that can’t be gained from a third-person or even first-person-speaking-to-reader perspective.

I loved Sister when it came out, as did the public, but I loved Afterwards even more. Often writers who make a big splash with their first novel buckle under the pressure and write a sub-par sophomore effort, but that’s not the case here. It makes me hopeful Lupton is only going to continue to get better and I predict she’s got more good stuff where this came from.

Now that your interest has been piqued, we’re going to give away a free galley of Afterwards. If you’re interested, just comment on this blog post or our related Facebook or Google+ notifications. The winner will be randomly chosen and announced in a few days. Then you can come pick up your loot in the store. And if you don’t win, you can still come by and purchase a real copy of Afterwards. Let us know what you think!

—Miriam

Killer Thrillers

Island BooksTo everything there is a season, and during the summer, the best way to compliment a poolside lounge chair and a cold drink is with a good psychological thriller. We may have only had a few perfect summer days on Mercer Island this year, but there’s been enough time to sit in the sun and fall in love with these 3 thrillers, especially since it’s hard not to read them in one sitting. Whether you’re one of those readers who sticks to the big name mystery and thriller authors like Lee Child, James Patterson, and Harlan Coben, or you’re more of a thriller dabbler who prefers emotionally complex characters, literary writing, and unpredictable twists, Before I Go to Sleep, Sister, and The Snowman won’t disappoint. Click on the links on this page to learn more on our Island Books website, and consider yourself warned that with these books in the house, you might be up all night triple-checking the locks on your doors.

Before I Go To SleepBefore I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson: Christine starts every day not knowing where or who she is due to a mysterious accident, and her memories disappear every time she falls asleep. Her husband, Ben, is always a stranger in her eyes, and he’s obligated to explain their life together over and over. Christine’s doctor encourages her to starts a journal to help retain her memory. One morning, she opens it and sees that she’s written a shocking warning: “Don’t trust Ben,” and with that phrase, everything her husband told her becomes suspicious. What kind of accident made her an amnesiac? Who can she trust? Why would Ben lie to her? And, for the reader: How true is Christine’s story?

SisterSister by Rosamund Lupton: The police tell Beatrice that her beloved younger sister, Tess, took her own life in an abandoned building in Hyde Park. But Beatrice knows her sister would never kill herself, and she’s certain the incident was a murder. Determined to solve the mystery, Beatrice launches her own investigation no matter what the cost. Narrated as a letter from Beatrice to Tess, the story connects the possibly random events that led to Tess’s death, including a hidden pregnancy that led a desperate woman to participate in a pharmaceutical trial and a mysterious man who played a central role in what happened to Tess. Beatrice lets her own life crumble as she becomes increasingly obsessed with the case, putting herself at great risk. The bond between sisters packs an emotional wallop and Lupton delivers a shocking and satisfying ending.

The SnowmanThe Snowman by Jo Nesbø: The day of the first snowfall, a child wakes up to find his mother has disappeared while he was asleep. Outside, a disturbing calling card appears: a snowman. A suspicious letter to Detective Hole spurs on the case, and together with his new partner, Katrine Bratt, Hole begins a dangerous hunt to catch the killer known as the Snowman. A hardened detective with expert instincts and emotional depth, Hole battles his own demons as he tries to find the link between the victims and the identity of the criminal. The police keep trying to close the case, but Hole knows the real killer remains at large and that it’s up to him to stop the murdersbefore he becomes the next target.

These are books we liked, but you don’t have to take our word for it. We want to hear more from you. If you’ve read Before I Go to Sleep, Sister, or The Snowman, weigh in below and let other people know what you thought. Or speak up and spread the word if you have your own favorite thriller of the summer!

—Miriam

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