Cover Image: Second Sister

Second Sister

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Member Reviews

Last year I read Chan Ho-Kei’s The Borrowed and I loved it. It was very original with a strong sense of place. So when I heard from Annie at A Bookish Type that there was another of his novels in translation, I immediately went to Netgalley and requested it. Granted, I have little objectivity when it comes to books set in Hong Kong, but it was a treat – although it started awkwardly I must say.

The first chapter is a tear jerker of massive proportions. You pile up all the possible human miseries onto one single family: poverty, illness, unfair treatment, bullying, scam, fatal accident, abuse, sexual attack, suicide… and you see if anyone survives. No, it’s not Cosette in Les Mis, but almost. It’s Nga-Yee, a librarian young woman who has survived her father’s death in an accident because he worked two jobs, her mother’s death by cancer and exhaustion, only to witness her young sister’s suicide. Oh, and of course, since she’s now all alone in the world, she needs to vacate her flat that is shockingly too big (for Hong Kong standards, which means 300 square feet) Honestly, it’s all a bit too much and if I had not read Chan Ho-Kei before it might have turned me off. But hang in there, it soon gets better.

As the sole bread winner, and a tough girl herself, Nga-Yee has worked too much to understand her sensitive little sister Siu-Man who was in middle school, but she refuses to accept her suicide at face value. Someone must have pushed Siu-Man to despair, and Nga-Yee wants revenge. She first hires a private investigator, who discovers that Siu-Man was indeed victim of internet trolling, but he can’t get to the bottom of it. He introduces her to N., an idiosyncratic hacker who lives in a derelict building and who first refuses to take her case, before reluctantly agreeing.

N. is obviously modelled on Sherlock Holmes, because he’s a loner, whimsical, brilliantly clever and treats Nga-Yee/Watson like a moron. (Although in that case, Nga Yee is a client and she has done her fair share of badgering him into taking her case) The magic tricks of the investigation are not about identifying soil or tobacco like in the old days, but about IT hacking techniques and cybersecurity vulnerabilities. I guess it might sometimes be a bit too much for a person who is not into computers, but that’s not my case (I do work in IT, and fwiw most information bits are accurate). From this book even more than the one before, I get the sense that Chan Ho-Kei is a pragmatist (so Hong Kong in a way!), interested in how people go about ethical quandaries and make up their own moral decisions in an uncertain time.

The plot is very convoluted and very clever. While the Borrowed plot went backwards in time and wove into each chapter recurring characters, places and historical facts, this plot is rather like Russian dolls, and there’s always another secret twist after the next one. It’s pretty addictive, and it reminded me of familiar places in Hong Kong, especially derelict buildings in Sai Ying Pun, that might or might not be the home of clever hackers.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I received a free copy of this book for review consideration.
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Thank you NetGalley for a complimentary copy.  I voluntarily reviewed this book.  All opinions expressed are my own. 

I wanted to like Second Sister much more than I actually did. The premise is good, and I was intrigued from the beginning. The problem, for me, lies in the overdone repetitive technical speak and details. These parts just stalled the story, and it would have been better without them. I got aggravated reading those parts which hindered enjoyment of the other parts of the story. Overall, this book fell short for me.
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This book was well written with developed characters whom I could really get into and an interesting plot..  An intriguing story made it well worth reading.
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This book had me torn as I was both intrigued and annoyed by it all throughout.

In it we follow Nga-Yee, whose sister commits suicide at the beginning of the book, and she cannot accept it. She wants to know why her sister did it and find someone to blame. To do that, she contacts N., who is a hacker and helps her find out information about her sister.

As the story involves a lot of technology, there are a lot of explanations of that in this book, which I found annoying, especially considering they were often over-explanations, as Nga Yee doesn't even know what Wi-fi is at first... Seriously?

Besides that, this book had a lot of twists and turns so I did want to know what would happen and that is why I finished it.

Overall though I wasn't impressed by this book and I'm not sure it was worth all the pages I read, it being almost 500 pages.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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This noir novel offers a glimpse into the highest and lowest of Hong Kong society. I enjoyed the way the author had the detective figure, N, explain all of his technological techniques to track their subjects to his client-cum-Watson. Like Ms Au, I too need technological principles explained as if I were an idiot. This looks like it is setting up a series and I would gladly visit with these characters again.
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Chan Ho-Kei has created an engaging Novel. Second Sister is a crime thriller set in Hong Kong.
Nga-Yee Au twenty-three yrs. old lived on the twenty second floor of the Wuh Wah House with her younger sister Siu-Man Au, fifteen yrs. Old.
One evening when Nga-Yee was on her way home from the supermarket, thinking what to make for dinner. She noticed a large crowd and police officers gathering in from of her building. Not knowing what was going on her same floor neighbor whom they called Auntie Chan, grabbed her feverishly and repeated the word sister. When she gets closer the only thing, she sees is a girl in a white school uniform laying there. It was her sister. and it was then that she was told her sister killed herself.
Nga-Yee was very confused. The past 6 months was though on both of them specially Siu-Man but she was sure her sister didn’t kill herself.
What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform 
It is a page turner thriller with brilliant twist and turns. This was my first book by Chan Ho-Kei who is a renowned Chinese author for thriller. I can’t wait to read The Borrowed.
Many Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Atlantic for the ARC.
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Themes in this book: Crime doesn’t pay, Online harassment is a problem around the world, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you, via technology big brother is watching you and modern-day Robin Hoods do exist. When a high school student commits suicide in Hong Kong, her sister is determined to see revenge on the person she thinks caused the suicide. At times I was confused, perhaps it was the translation but more likely I was totally lost in the world and language of hackers. The dual stories in the book kept combining in my mind and that didn’t help either. Despite the problems I had reading it, I thoroughly enjoyed Second Sister. I know I will never begin to understand the workings of the grouchy hacker detective even if I tried to outline how his thought pattern worked. Needless to say, “N” is the detective of the future.
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This was overall an interesting novel; my one complaint would be the needless and repetitive, to some degree, explanation of technical terms.  For example, one character explains to the other what an IP address, WIFI, dark web and a few others meanings in detail.  For me and I’m sure most readers, those terms are fairly familiar and don’t require a detailed explanation.  The story is told from two perspectives, the sister who had lost her younger sister to suicide and is trying to find out why.  The other perspective is from the hacker she is referred to by the police for assistance.  The hacker is a gruff person with questionable cleaning habits, at one point she cleans his apartment she is so disgusted with it.  The hacker, who going by the single initial of ‘N’, is highly skilled at what he does and initially refuses to assist her.  After she stalks him, he eventually agrees to help her.  The first part of the story is finding out who posted to a Facebook type of website, a nasty rant about her younger sister. Finding this person takes up to about half way through.  Then they decide should they take revenge on this person, an eye for an eye.  The rest is their activities setting up the revenge.  The last part of the story deals with a subplot that ‘N’ has been pursuing largely on his own.  I won’t reveal more than that otherwise it will be a spoiler.  This was a very good read, the ending was unexpected, I kept thinking that I knew what was going to happen next and was wrong every time.  Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.
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This was an engaging crime thriller in Hong Kong.... that grabbed my attention immediately....starting withfthe prologue. 

Prologue (first sentence):
     “When Nga-Yee left her flat at eight that morning, she had no idea your whole life would change that day”. 

Chapter 1... ( first sentence):
     “Your sister killed herself”.
Nga-Yee Au, twenty-three yrs. old, had been labeled by her secondary schoolmates a loner, and introvert, a nerd. 
     “Everyone has the right to choose how to live their lives. Trying to fit in with other peoples ideas is pure foolishness”. 

Siu-Man Au, fifteen yrs. old,... was Nga-Yee’s sister. 

The Au sisters lived at the Wun Wah House. 
Their neighbor, Auntie Chan lived on the twenty-second floor.... same floor that the sisters lived on.
The girls knew Auntie Chan enough to say hello, but that was about it. 
When Nga-Yee returned home from around six p.m., ....(thinking about what she was going to fix for dinner for she and Siu-Man), she noticed a police car and a crowd of people in front of her building. 
Auntie Chan, grabbed Nga-Yee’s arm frantically in a sheer terror state. 
The only word that Nga-Yee understood was ‘sister’. 
     “A teenage girl in a white school uniform lay there, tangled hair obscuring her face, dark red liquid puddling around her head”.

 Siu-Man was the only family Nga-Yee had in the world. 
Nga-Yee didn’t want to admit to herself that her sister had ample reason to seek death.
She had been under a lot of pressure for the past six months, but Nga-Yee felt certain that her sister didn’t kill herself. 

The sisters parents were born in the 1960s, second generation immigrants. When the war broke out between the Nationalists and Communist in 1946,  large numbers of refugees began searching from the mainland into Hong Kong. 

A few months before Siu-Man was found dead - from their twenty-second story flat....
a man by the name of Shiu Tak-Ping - forty-three years old - owner of a stationary shop, ‘touched/groped’ Siu-Man while on a crowded train: extremely inappropriate sexual advances. 

After a hearing, Shiu Tak-Ping was charged with indecent assault.  He was sent to prison for three months. 
Not long after - a week before Siu-Man’s fifteenth birthday - an article came out in ‘The Popcorn’, a major paper saying:
     “Fourteen-Year-Old Slut Sent My Uncle to Prison”.
The widespread news was horrific slander and injustice.  Siu-Man was an innocent young girl. She was called a whore on social media...a target of public abuse and objectification from a bunch of strangers. 
     “The newspapers and magazines covered this story from many different angles, some agreeing that it was a miscarriage of justice, others criticizing this behavior as a form of bullying. Yet, whether they were pro or anti-, it didn’t change the fact that Sui-Man was now a public figure”. 

Sergeant Ching told Nga-Yee that they had plenty of evidence to show that her sister jumped - killed herself…did it to herself…committed suicide.
Just speaking to the sergeant, Nga-Yee felt a mixture of pain, bitterness, and resentment towards him. 
Nga-Yee knew her sister better than anyone and that just couldn’t be the case. 
Or??? Could it? 

After a father’s work-related accident, a mothers illness, ( cancer), a sister’s suicide—
Nga-Yee -at 23 yrs. old, —had no family left. 

I ‘ached’ for Nga-Yee.  
She had more than her share of loss.  I cared for her all the way through this novel. 

What follows after the reality that Siu-Man, was really dead...was a cat and mouse crime investigation....
...also historical details about the government’s role in public affordable housing for lower income residents. 

Nga-Yee knew she couldn’t keep pushing her tasks on to coworkers, but all she could focus on was finding Siu-Man’s killer. 
She went through webpages N had given her.  Only two classmate students attended Sky-Man’s funeral. There were about 18 other suspects… and all strangers
to Nga-Yee. 

N had the ruthlessness of a hardened criminal, but he was more upright than the majority of people… always using his abilities to help the weak.  
He was an interesting character.  I thought of Dexter a few times - or Lisbeth Salander - 
I also liked how is character developed in relationship to Nga-Yee. 

     “There were evil people everywhere…and there were modern-day night in shining armor‘s”....

This story had pulsating elements that kept me turning the pages.... with characters to root for and villains to catch. 
It also opened my eyes to the crime and assaults in Hong Kong. 

I really enjoyed reading Chan Ho-Kei’s novel ....
The translation was done well.  Perhaps the storytelling itself was a little long in the middle section— with added commentary that might have been more tightly edited— but I enjoyed the intimacy 
that shined through the chaotic and colorful underworld of Hong Kong. 

Thank you Netgalley, Grove Atlantic, and Chan Ho-Kei
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Second sister is a well written thriller.Its a novel in translation a book with twists and turns.I was completely fascinated by the story the setting a foreign setting a complex investigation a book that made a chilling read.#netgalley #groveatlantic
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Chan Ho-Kei’s astonishingly good Second Sister (fluidly translated by Jeremy Tiang) breaks a lot of rules. It doesn’t always play fair with the reader because the detective not only reluctantly explains things to the narrator, he always leaves things out. There are places where the plot bogs down in tech-y conversations that reminded me of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy. But there are so many good and great things about this novel that I forgave all of its problems. I have never read a mystery/thriller novel that contains so many brilliant twists, turns, and reversals. Second Sister is almost like three novels in one.

Nga-Yee is the last living member of her family by the time Second Sister opens. Her father was killed in a work accident years earlier. A year before the book begins, her mother passes away from cancer. Second Sister commences with Nga-Yee receiving the news that her sister has just committed suicide. Nga-Yee is dumbfounded. She knows that her sister has been struggling in the wake of a sexual assault and internet trolling, but she never would have thought that her sister would kill herself. She needs answers. The only clue she has that her sister might have been driven to take her own life is the only handle of the person who posted an accusation that Nga-Yee’s sister framed an innocent man and kicked off months of harassment. When the online name turns out to be untraceable through conventional means, Nga-Yee is sent to a mysterious man known only as N. She is told that N is the only person who can take her case.

Second Sister really starts to gain traction when Nga-Yee badgers N into taking her case. At first, N tells her that the case is too simple for him. After a few days of Nga-Yee staking out his sty of an apartment, N gives in. Suddenly, he tells Nga-Yee that the case fascinates him. And what a case it turns out to be! I don’t want to give anything away, but the crimes at the heart of Second Sister are mysteries wrapped in enigmas tangled up in riddles. Best of all—at least for me—there are ethical dilemmas at every turn. I love mysteries that ask the client or the detective or whoever the protagonist is to make impossible decisions. The biggest dilemma Nga-Yee has to face is, what does she want from this investigation? Many of the crimes N uncovers are not actually in Hong Kong’s criminal code, because the law hasn’t caught up with many of the heinous things people can do with the internet. Does Nga-Yee want revenge? If so, will it make up for her sister’s death?

I’ve been thinking about Second Sister, Nga-Yee, and the marvelously curmudgeon of a detective, N, ever since I finished the book last night. I still feel like I’m catching up to N’s brilliant mind and his mastery of social engineering. I will definitely recommend Second Sister to mystery fans, provided they will be okay with the grittier aspects of this novel. (Thankfully, most of the really horrible stuff happens off the page.) This is the most original novel—let alone mystery novel—I’ve read in a long time.
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Chan Ho-Kei has crafted an engrossing page turner of a read in Second Sister. Well worth the time of the read!
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This was my first time getting to know Asian crime fiction, so I really had to get used to the somewhat messy looking style of this book for a while. On the other hand, I enjoyed books with a more chaotic plot or seemingly without a plot at all, so when I got into this book and realized it is the way it is, and it is meant to be this choppy, I soon was hooked.

I loved the emotional depth of 'Second Sister'. It was easy to let myself be taken in by the waves, to be angry together with Nga-Yee, and to feel conflicted as she did further into the story. I love how strong her emotions were, and how she tried too hard to show her strength.

One thing I did not love is, how a smart person like Nga-Yee, in a world and city where technology is so important, was portrayed as totally digitally inept. I see how this was used to make her look to the world she would discover with fresh eyes, but to me as a reader it made her look not all there. Especially at the start, when N had to explain the most basic, common things to her. I hadn't been surprised if he had started explaining what a mouse was to her at some point. I think this book would have started more strongly if she was just a bit more adept, like most people are: using message boards etc. herself, and realizing everything that could happen behind them. It would also have stopped her having a bit of 'moral high ground' for not using it, while most readers of the book probably do.

That said, I very, very much enjoyed 'Second Sister'.
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I received a free digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed this book. I felt it was a quick and easy read. I really enjoyed the characters and the plot! I did think it moved a littler slower than I particularly like a book to be. 

Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for allowing me to review this title.
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Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei is a fascinating crime-thriller novel in so many respects. The cultural descriptions of Hong Kong and its digitized population creates an almost dystopian ambiance. 

It covers themes ranging from crime and punishment (what is suitable and who should determine who’s guilty?) to internet piracy and privacy (are we all journalists now that we can post what we want, went we want, no matter the truth or fake news?) to pedophiles and their victims. 

Online bullying, trolls, sexual harassment, corporate greed and suicide are rife in our current day culture worldwide and this novel handles these themes in-depth. I particularly liked this quote: “The data that ought to help us find the truth becomes a mental drug that keeps us in a state of foolishness.”

But don’t let the seriousness of these themes detract from what is a brilliant crime story. The premise is simple: a girl dies and her sister sets out to find the person responsible. What ensues is a complex mix of lies, half-truths, shady characters and a few “Oh. My. Word!” revelations that you don’t see coming!

I loved this novel!

#netgalley #secondsister #chanho-kei #groveatlantic
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When it is snowy and cold outside, superspeed readers like me can read 150 - 200+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. LOL

I received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Chan Ho-Kei’sThe Borrowed was one of the most acclaimed international crime novels of recent years, a vivid and compelling tale of power, corruption, and the law spanning five decades of the history of Hong Kong. Now he delivers "Second Sister", an up-to-the-minute tale of a Darwinian digital city where everyone from tech entrepreneurs to teenagers is struggling for the top.

A schoolgirl—Siu-Man—has committed suicide, leaping from her twenty-second-floor window to the pavement below. Siu-Man is an orphan and the librarian older sister who’s been raising her refuses to believe there was no foul play—nothing seemed amiss. She contacts a man known only as N.—a hacker, and an expert in cybersecurity and manipulating human behaviour. But can Nga-Yee interest him sufficiently to take her case, and can she afford it if he says yes?

What follows is a cat and mouse game through the city of Hong Kong and its digital underground, especially an online gossip platform, where someone has been slandering Siu-Man. The novel is also populated by a man harassing girls on mass transit; high school kids, with their competing agendas and social dramas; a Hong Kong digital company courting an American venture capitalist; and the Triads, market women and noodle shop proprietors who frequent N.’s neighbourhood of Sai Wan. In the end, it all comes together to tell us who caused Siu-Man’s death and why, and to ask, in a world where online and offline dialogue has increasingly forgotten about the real people on the other end, what the proper punishment is.

With all that is going on in Hong Kong right not with riots, it was interesting to read a book about the city. State? Island? (Whatever.) I was utterly fascinated reading about the different parts of Hong Kong and its inhabitants - they are decidedly not all Edison Chengs from "Crazy Rich Asians"! The characters were engaging and fascinating and the story tight and tense, just like a mystery should be. It is just a WONDERFUL crime read/mystery that makes me want to order in "real" Chinese food ... that does not include 99.99% of what my husband considers to be Chinese food.  

If you are looking for a great read, this is a perfect book to choose ... as always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials" on Instagram and Twitter..get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🐉🐉🐉🐉🐉
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Ambientazione interessante, ma sebbene mi renda conto della necessità di fornire informazioni su tecnologia, privacy, mercati digitali ho trovato le pagine e pagine che si accumulavano francamente eccessive.
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