Blog Book Tour | “Second Sister” by Chan Ho-Kei (an Zeitgeisty Hacker Contemporary Thriller)

Posted Sunday, 22 March, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

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Acquired Book By: I’ve been enjoying hosting blog tours for the UK Indie publisher Head of Zeus as I feel blessed to work with them as a book blogger being that I love celebrating authors from the UK and the stories they are telling through the different genres Head of Zeus is publishing. These blog tours have been encouraging my bookish and readerly wanderings into Crime Dramas, Historical Fiction and Historical Sagas whilst also engaging into my passionate love of Speculative Fiction which encompasses Science Fiction and Fantasy. I am thankful to be hosting tours for the publisher directly and with their publicity team at Midas PR.

I received a complimentary copy of “Second Sister” direct from the publisher Head of Zeus in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What intrigued me about “Second Sister”:

I have noticed a shift in my reading patterns has brought me back into *Crime Fiction!* recently – even before I announced becoming an influencer for the Crime Fiction Subscription Book Box which is focused on highlighting Canadian Crime Writers and Crime Fiction from around the world. This is a niche of literature I personally LOVE to be reading – from Contemporary Suspense & Thrillers to Cosy Historical Mysteries to dramatic Cosy Crime and police proceduals and amateur sleuths – there is something truly captivating about reading stories which invigorate your mind whilst your attempting to uncover the writer’s vision of how to tell a captivating suspense novel through their own lens of inspiration to leave you gripped inside a novel that might be hard to put down after its read.

From the moment I first read the premise of “Second Sister” – I just had this murmuring of interest as this was my first takeaway having read the synopsis:

It isn’t often I find a Thriller like this one which intrigues me to read the story. The author reminds me of what I enjoyed about reading J.S. Monroe’s “Forget My Name” and why I am dearly eager to read his new release “The Other You” – which I hosted an Author Q&A for earlier in January of this year.

It isn’t often I find Crime Fiction in translation – the first novel of I read of this nature was The Swimmer which happily took me by surprise and was a wicked good read. This is the other reason “Second Sister” appealled to me as a reader – not to mention the premise was a gutting one – how it effectively was about the lives and choices of two sisters and would take me to Hong Kong to hear their story. I’ll admit the tagline attached to this novel was quite alluring in its own right –  an Zeitgeisty Hacker Contemporary Thriller!

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Blog Book Tour | “Second Sister” by Chan Ho-Kei (an Zeitgeisty Hacker Contemporary Thriller)Second Sister
by (Translator) Jeremy Tiang, Chan Ho-Kei
Source: Direct from Publicist

Upon discovering her fifteen-year-old sister’s body sprawled in a pool of blood at the bottom of their apartment block, Nga-Yee vows to serve justice to the internet troll she blames for her sister’s suicide.

Hiring an anti-establishment, maverick tech-savvy detective, Nga-Yee discovers the dark side of social media, the smokescreen of online privacy and the inner workings of the hacker’s mind.

Determined to find out the truth about why her sister Siu-Man killed herself, Nga-Yee cannot rest until she finds out whose inflammatory social media post went viral and pushed her sister to her death. Along the way, Nga-Yee makes unsavoury discoveries about her sister’s life and the dark underbelly of the digital world.

Perfect for fans of hacker thrillers such as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, Second Sister is part detective novel, part revenge thriller. It explores timely themes of sexual harassment, online trolling, victim blaming, fake news and data privacy scandals , vividly capturing the zeitgeist of Hong Kong and the world today.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1788547116

Genres: Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Crime Fiction, Hard-Boiled Mystery, Police Procedural, Thriller


Setting: Hong Kong


Published by Head of Zeus

on 18th February, 2020

Format: Hardcover Edition

Pages: 496

Published By: Head of Zeus (@HoZ_Books)

Converse via: #SecondSister, #Thriller

as well as #Contemporary and #TechnoThriller

Available Formats: Hardcover, Trade Paperback, Audiobook & Ebook

About (Translator) Jeremy Tiang

Jeremy Tiang

Jeremy Tiang's short story collection It Never Rains on National Day was published by Epigram Books in 2015. His writing has also appeared in The Guardian, Esquire, Asia Literary Review, Brooklyn Rail, Drunken Boat, Meanjin, Ambit and Best New Singaporean Short Stories.

He has translated more than ten books from Chinese, including work by Yeng Pway Ngon, You Jin, Wong Yoon Wah, Yan Geling, Yu Qiuyu, Su Wei-chen and Zhang Yueran. Shorter translations have appeared in Two Lines, the Iowa Review, Asymptote and The Stinging Fly.

He is a 2016 NEA Literary Translation Fellow, and has received grants from PEN/ Heim and the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature. Jeremy also writes and translates plays, including Floating Bones (The Arts House, Singapore), A Dream of Red Pavilions (adapted from the novel Hong Lou Meng; Pan-Asian Repertory Theatre, NYC) and The Last Days of Limehouse (Yellow Earth Theatre, London).

About Chan Ho-Kei

Chan Ho-Kei

Chan was born and raised in Hong Kong. He was graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong with a B.Sc. degree in 1997. He has worked as software engineer, game designer, manga editor, and lecturer. Chan made his debut as writer in 2008, with short story The Murder Case of Jack and the Beanstalk which was shortlisted for the 6th Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award. Chan reentered and won this award in the next year with The Locked Room of Bluebeard.

After receiving a couple more of awards, Chan reached the first milestone of his writing career in 2011. Chan's novel, The Man who Sold the World won the biggest mystery award in the Chinese speaking world, the Soji Shimada Award. The book has been published in Taiwan, Japan, Italy, Thailand and Korea.

 In 2014, Chan's work The Borrowed was published in Taiwan and has been well acclaimed. It has sold rights in eight countries, and the film rights sold to director Wong Kar-Wai.

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my review of “second sister”:

We step into the shoes of Nga-Yee as she’s making her way home, as we reflect on her emotions and the ways in which she is attempting to tell herself despite the odds against her – she’s going to get through everything which is currently giving her extra stress. She redirects herself to thinking about her younger sister and the joy she can give them both with a hot meal even if it is a humbled recipe to put together. Her thoughts occupy her commute home and it is only as the scene starts to unfold to both her and us (as readers) do we realise the fragility of how all our lives are dearly close to an emergency we cannot foresee before it alights on our path.

The intensity of her grief coupled with the pure shock of what is before her eyes truly grips you – how can anyone want to resolve seeing someone they love has died prematurely and is a victim of a crime? The lens in which Chan provides us is an intimate one wherein we are on the street with Nag-Yee as she receives the worst news and how she has to process the ramifications of what is now known. Before we can better understand what happened to Siu-Man, Chan let’s us take stock of the family’s linear history as we backtrack through the childhood and growing years of the sisters – showing us not only their own growing years but how their parents met, married and carved out a living for their family. They were a working class family who fell on harder times more than once but at the heart of their existence – they believed in doing what was needed to stand independent without welfare. You truly felt their courage as they consistently had to transition through tragedy and circumstances which might have broke the spirits of others but in their family, they had a renewed sense of pride for finding ways to rise through adversity.

I hadn’t expected such a sharp turn of emotional anguish so early-on in the story – however, the conditions of what led into Nag-Yee’s Mum’s death was both brief and well-written from how a terminal diagnosis can alter your life’s path most immediately after being given. I generally shy away from reading stories which involve terminal illness – however, in this instance, it was a passage of maturity and of how a Mum had influenced her daughter to realise not only did she have the confidence to move forward but she was raised with the strength to endure whatever life was about to bring onto her path. Nag-Yee greatly benefited from being raised by a Mum who saw the positives rather than focused solely on what was negatively affecting them from progress. I believe this was necessary to disclose – if only to better understand Nag-Yee and the choices she would start to make in regards to uncovering what happened to her younger sister.

The intriguing threads of how this story churns into a captivating Thriller is when Nag-Yee chooses to hire a private detective to help her unearth the details leading into her sister’s death. It was here – after seeing how Nag-Yee unpacked her guilt and her thoughts about her sister’s life leading up to the moment she had died we start to see how her sister was holding back more than a few secrets from her older sister! So much so, it was hard to recognise why her sister had withheld so information – yet, as Nag-Yee starts to gain a foothold into what was happening to Siu-Man you can understand the young girl’s restraint. She was caught inside a disturbing situation which had no easy way out for a girl who simply wanted to live an ordinary life or at least that was the perception you felt by seeing this play out from Nag-Yee’s perspective.

As Chan gets into the heavier aspects of the story, where Siu-Man had been physically attacked on the MTR and how her life had changed after her attacker had been sentenced – you start to see the underbelly of public harassment and how quickly a victim is stalked online. From there a rather frustrating pattern of apathy from someone who doesn’t choose cases based on the need of the victim’s family but on his own selfishness in wanting to seek out a challenge – which was a keenly interesting view of the hacker ‘N’. Yet, it was how N changed his perception on the case which intrigued me. Whilst contrary to how Chan is enveloping us in the hard pursuit of truth to understand what happened to Siu-Man, we also have a *thread of text or instant messages (as it could be either of them) interlacing into the narrative wherein we’re peering into how Siu-Man’s life was being observed and manipulated by her peers who felt they could hide behind their screens whilst affecting a person’s life from a distance. It set the tone of the novel now that the investigation has begun – to better understand what was happening to Siu-Man and how vulnerable she was to outside attacks.

What truly hugged me into the storyline though wasn’t the actual case Nag-Yee was pursuing to understand what led into her sister’s death but rather, the curious connection Nag-Yee had to N (the hacker) and how N helped her change her life for the better. At the heart of this Thriller is a heartwarming secondary plot about the choices we have in our lives – about accepting the fate of the rhythm of how our lives are playing out day to day and how sometimes if you’re given the chance, you can take a leap of faith and change your life by a single choice not to feel as if fate has complete control over your actions.

This was the curious bit to the novel – how Chan wove our path through the investigation but the truer curiosity was what was motivating N to resolve the case and what his actual motives were in allowing Nag-Yee to hire him. In the classic sense of revelations, Chan doesn’t tip his full hand until the final chapter – wherein you find out Nag-Yee wasn’t alone in needing N’s assistance nor was she singled out for needing help with her personal situations. If anything, this was a keen story about how your life can go from being completely upended to a firmer start where a new beginning allows you the most growth in the future. I personally loved the ending – the story overall is a dearly sombering one to read – how cyberbullying and gossip can destroy lives, how mental health plays a strong role in how you survive your adversities (or succumb to them) and how without trusting yourself to seek out the truth in life, you truly don’t have a chance at finding restitution.

Note on Content:

Within the context of this novel, there are mentions of situations you would see regularly on Law & Order: SVU – which I felt fit within the scope of the story Chan set out to tell but some of those passages are hard to read because of the fact they affect the younger characters in the story; specifically teenage girls who are underage. There isn’t a lot of strong language in the novel (blessedly) but there are passages which included a sprinkling of it because of the content of those bits of narrative which befit the stronger words to be used. It is a hard novel by most angles because of what the case involves at the heart of the story but what I felt reflected best throughout the harder aspects of the novel were the strength of how Chan wanted to showcase how his characters transitioned through the obstacles he had them face and how in the end, the heroine truly wrote her own ‘happier ending’.

on the thrilling contemporary styling of chan ho-kei:

Settling into the rhythm of Chan’s novel is an easy one because of the welcoming way he envelopes you into his Thriller. You don’t even feel like this is a Contemporary Thriller at first in the traditional sense because of how he wants you to feel anchoured into his character’s lives – to see them before they were dearly afflicted by tragic loss and how their past might shed light on where we seek them out in the present. In many ways, his style is a bit of a time shift – where you begin on one note of current relevance of disclosure before you re-shift into the past wherein he allows you to re-see his characters at a different stage of their lives. In this way, he wants you to see how far they’ve come and better understand whom they are in the present by first disclosing the path they walked to get here.

Where things truly were interesting is how Chan wrote the exchanges between N (the hacker for fire) and Nag-Yee. She was clearly out of her depth for understanding technology and yet, she surprised you for her capacity to understand things that were altogether new and different from her base of knowledge. She also knew how to rib N and how to take him unawares even without trying – part of me wondered if they might have a future together just because of the classic set-up of how opposite personalities can be attractive to one another! Whilst she drove him bonkers with her enquiries and her ignorance about life online, N also respected Nag-Yee even if he didn’t quite allow her the pleasure of knowing that tidbit! I liked how Chan placed them together – in this tug-of-war of wit and bantering; as it added to the joy of reading the novel!

Outside of watching CSI: Cyber – it has been awhile since I’ve read a TechnoThriller which discusses the finer points of the dark web vs the surface of the web where we blog, tweet, etc to share our lives. There is a lot of information about how the informational age is both a resource to appreciate and how this tool we use daily/weekly/yearly can also bite back if we are not openly monitoring how we share our information and towards what end we want that information to be shared. It is a interesting look at cyber territory and how all data can become manipulated or altered with a few key strokes whilst staying resolute in pursuit of safety and keeping a distance in what we disclose has never been a more important endgame.

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This Book Review is courtesy

of #SecondSister blog tour

Follow the journey by visiting with these bloggers:

Second Sister blog tour banner provided by Midas PR and is used with permission.

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Visit the book bloggers who preceded me on the tour:

Spotlight @ Bite Into Books

Review @ The Bookwormery

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. Bookish conversations are always welcome on Jorie Loves A Story. I especially would love to hear your thoughts on reading Contemporary Thrillers, Cosy Crime & Crime Fiction!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Second Sister”, book synopsis, author photograph of Chan Ho-Kei, author biography and the blog tour banners were all provided by Midas PR and used with permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2020.

I’m a social reader | I tweet my reading life

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Sunday, 22 March, 2020 by jorielov in 21st Century, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Contemporary Thriller, Crime Fiction, Equality In Literature, Fly in the Ointment, Head of Zeus, Modern Day, Multi-cultural Characters and/or Honest Representations of Ethnicity, Post-911 (11th September 2001), Siblings, Sisters & the Bond Between Them, Vulgarity in Literature




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