SECOND SISTER by Chan Ho-kei


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A young Chinese woman suspects her younger sister's suicide is not what it seems in this somber tale of investigation and discovery.

Siu-Man, the schoolgirl victim, had been the subject of online bullying after reporting a man for groping her on public transportation, a charge that resulted in the man’s going to jail. Siu-Man's older sister and guardian, Nga-Yee, can't accept that her sister killed herself and hires a cyberhacker to see if the chat board posts against Siu-Man can be tracked down. The premise is a pretty slim reed, really more of an excuse to examine the simultaneously liberating and corrupting potential of the internet, the anonymity it affords people to say what they want, and the temptation that comes with it to indulge in gossip, invective, and maliciousness. Inevitably, the investigation leads beyond users to the tech companies content to exploit those temptations. The story is also a portrait of life on the economic fringes of Hong Kong, a city so expensive the inhabitants cling to the tiny government-issued housing as their only slim foothold. The sense of fatigue with which Nga-Yee comes home from a day's work near the beginning of the novel hovers over the rest of it. Unfortunately, these threads are more interesting than the unfolding of Siu-Man's fate.

This is a novel in which the motivating mystery feels swamped by the commentary surrounding it.

Pub Date: Feb. 18th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2947-5
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: Black Cat/Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2019


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