I very much enjoyed Australian author Aoife Clifford’s debut novel All These Perfect Strangers, released in 2016.
Second Sight is a little different to the first book (in neither a good nor bad way). It feels very Australian and I adored the opening pages – Clifford’s vividly visceral descriptions and the easy way in which she gives us a strong sense of the small coastal town of Kinsale.
The sun pours through the glass and warms my bones to jelly. I wind down the window to take in the salted scent of my childhood: sea mixed with the crusty tang from the deep-fryers in the takeaway shops. It’s all sunscreen, tan lines, peeling skin and bad holiday traffic. p 2
by Aoife Clifford
Published by Simon & Schuster AU
on July 1st 2018
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
Eliza Carmody returns home to the country to work on the biggest law case of her career. The only problem is this time she’s on the ‘wrong side’ – defending a large corporation against a bushfire class action by her hometown of Kinsale.
On her first day back Eliza witnesses an old friend, Luke Tyrell, commit an act of lethal violence. As the police investigate that crime and hunt for Luke they uncover bones at The Castle, a historic homestead in the district. Eliza is convinced that they belong to someone from her past.
As Eliza becomes more and more entangled in the investigation, she is pulled back into her memories of youthful friendships and begins to question everyone she knows … and everything she once thought was true.
There’s a sense of foreboding and menace in this novel which reminded me of books like Jane Harper’s The Dry, Eliza Henry Jones’ Ache and and Sophie Laguna’s The Choke.
I think part of it is the nostalgic realness of the setting which Clifford develops and delivers so well that I could sense it. (And I’m usually crap at that sort of thing.)
In addition to the actual environs or physical environment Clifford also does a great job with the characters and the baggage of the past. Again, she easily delves into that small-town feel and the parochial-ness (that can be both defiantly judgemental and accepting at the same time) that sometimes goes with it.
Eliza is a great character and we’re taken on her ‘journey’ for the want of a better word. Not just from her teenage years to two decades on, but rather her own adulthood evolution.
Although the chapters around New Year’s Eve in 1996 are shared through the eyes of several characters, we’re directed in the present via Eliza and there as she struggles with the life she’s built for herself. She talks about her ambition and single-minded focus to become a partner at her law firm and the fulfilment she thought it would bring.
She realises though that she’s still waiting to feel the security or comfort she expected so events unfolding here are more confronting than she could have predicted.
I thought it was the fire corrupting all it touched, but my problems didn’t start with this case. I go all the way back to that New Year’s Eve on the beach. At the start of that night I had two best friends. By the end of it I didn’t. It’s as simple as that and yet I did nothing about it, a fact I have been running from my all life. It’s as if, in that water my heart froze and by the time I got to shore it had splintered on its own fault lines. I have tried to pretend it was nothing, when it was everything.
And with that realisation there is a hush. p 207
I liked that element of reflection – brought about by the events of the book’s opening chapter, (in which Eliza’s inadvertently involved through some twist of fate); that we can spend our lives yearning for something only to find it isn’t what we were after.
Clifford also delves deeper via the relationships reflected in the past and present (particularly the tension between Eliza and her sister and father) and how they have influenced her life.
I also appreciated that Clifford draws on contemporary culture – videos going viral, hashtags we latch onto – all a reminder of our propensity to want to find the next ‘thing’ and leap onto something – a person’s goodness or badness (all or nothing) – in an attempt to make sense of this world, find meaning or just make a statement.
Easily a read-in-one-sitting book, Second Sight by Aoife Clifford published by Simon & Schuster is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.