Smart Crime Book Reviews: Rosamund Lupton

Rosamund Lupton has her own website.

Afterwards by Rosamund LuptonBook cover of Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton

Read by Natalie August 2011(OurBookClub book pick of the month for August 2011)

Natalie recommends this as a great follow-up to her first novel Sister.

This is an unusual, yet beautifully written and very moving story. Told almost as a conversation from Grace to her husband, it was different to what I expected from reading the blurb on the back.

It is the story of a perfect day, that is ruined by a fire at a school and a mother racing to save her daughter who is trapped inside. It is the story of a mother protecting her daughter from the person who seems determined to end her life. It is the story of a perfect crime, hiding a story about love, courage, family and the things a parent will do for their child.

When Grace is at her son Adamís school sports day she is all about looking after him. He is 8 years old, shy and easily bullied. Her 17 year old daughter is working at the school as a teacherís assistant/nurse and all Grace can think of is that she should be revising for her failed A levels and dressed a little more appropriately for the day. However as thick black smoke rises from the school building, Grace races towards it, knowing her daughter is trapped in the medical facility on the top floor. Seeing Adam safe in the arms of her best friendís daughter, Grace doesnít think twice about entering the burning building to find Jenny. Overcome by smoke and the collapsing building, both Jenny and Grace are left unconscious but still rescued. However, they find themselves trapped in the hospital, watching over their damaged bodies as family and friends beg for them to survive.

Neither Grace nor Jenny fully understand whatís happening to them, but both are determined to live. Trying to piece together the events of the day, they also watch as Mike, Graceís husband and Jennyís father keeps a constant vigil by their bedside, refusing to believe he will lose either of them. They watch as Sarah, Mikeís sister and a local detective takes charge of the investigation, surprising Grace in her relentlessness for answers. They watch as Adam, unable to speak since the fire is told the truth about his mother and sister and they watch as someone seems determined to finish the job with Jenny. As the story progresses we learn that the fire was deliberately lit, that Jenny had been the subject of a vicious hate mail attack, that a favourite teacher of Adamís had been recently fired for a playground incident, that the school was having financial difficulties and that Graceís best friend may not have had the happy marriage and family life as originally thought. What we donít know is whether these events are connected, and if so how they can possibly fit together. Can Grace and Jenny discover the answers to what happened that day, can they find the arsonist and will they stop this person from getting to Jenny as she lies in the ICU covered in burns.

The book is told in a similar concept to Sister where Grace is telling events to her husband as she witnesses or remembers them, taking the reader along with her. Moving through the present, the day of the fire and even into the past, Grace struggles to accept what is happening. Learning more about herself as the days progress however, she comes to realise that her and Jenny havenít grown apart as she had feared, that Jenny has grown into a beautiful adult who is deeply in love, that Sarah the sister-in-law she was never sure about loves this family and would do anything to protect them and that Adam, her precious son would be ok. She also accepts and recognises her own hidden insecurities, along with her biggest strengths. As Jennyís condition worsens however and Graceís looks likely to never improve, Grace makes the ultimate decision and sacrifice, knowing now this is the only answer for saving her family. The book, told in this way where we watch two ďspiritsĒ unravel the crime is unusual but so very well done. It is easy to suspend belief and see this as being entirely possible and as the story moves on and the convoluted crime is solved, you know there is only one way for it to possibly end. Keep some tissues handy when you get there, youíre going to need them. Beautifully written and very moving.

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Sister by Rosamund LuptonBook cover of Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Read by Natalie January 2011

Natalie recommends this as an excellent read that will keep you hooked until the very end!

This is a fantastic literary crime novel that kept me turning the pages right up to the very end. Told by Beatrice, it is the story of her missing sister Tess and Beatriceís unstoppable attempts to find out what has happened to her. Alternating between the present, as Beatrice recites her version of events to the Crown Prosecutor and the past, as Beatrice first hears the news and then begins her investigation, the narrative is a continuous story to Tess. When she first hears the news, Beatrice rushes from New York to London to find out where her sister has gone. When her body is discovered shortly after she arrives and the coroner returns a suicide verdict, the case is closed. Beatrice however, refuses to believe her sister would kill herself. This is not what Tess would do, particularly as she was pregnant and they had already lost their younger brother to cystic fibrosis years ago. As Beatrice tries to tell everyone she knows her sister and her sister simply valued life too much, the police, Tessí psychiatrist and their mother try to explain that Tess wasnít herself anymore. But, as Beatrice ignores these comments and continues her investigation into her sisterís death, she soon discovers she may not know her sister as well as she thought. Although she knew Tess had taken part in a trial to cure her unborn childís cystic fibrosis, she didnít know that Tess had had her baby and that it had been stillborn. She did know about the affair Tess had with her art tutor which resulted in the pregnancy, but not that he was married with a child and had cut all ties with Tess. She also didnít know about the fellow art student that seemed to be obsessed with Tess and followed her everywhere, or that Tess was receiving threatening phone calls. As Beatrice struggles with this new knowledge of her sister and questions their relationship and her own personality, she also feels the weight of someone watching her. Trying to reassure herself this isnít possible, she continues both her investigation and her story to the Prosecutor and the reader tries to work out what is going on. I have to say, I knew there was a twist coming, but it was definitely not what I expected it to be! The story was very cleverly told, where the reader learnt new facts in the case as Beatrice told her story chronologically, and with each new fact or piece of evidence, it became harder to work out just what was going to happen in the end. We knew Tess was dead, we knew there were several possible suspects who each had their own motives, we knew even how her death had been staged to look like a suicide. What we didnít know was who the killer was and why they waited until after Tessís baby was born and we also didnít know what was going on with Beatrice Ė was someone also now after her? Iím not going to tell you the answers to these questions, but instead suggest you pick up the book and read it too. It is a fantastic read!

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