Author: Rosamund Lupton
Release Date: April 24, 2012
Genre: Literary Mystery
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
When Grace sees a fire engulfing the private school her daughter is an assistant teacher at, she runs into the flames to save Jenny. Moments later, Grace awakens at a hospital, staring down at her own body. She and Jenny are both in comas, but their spirits are alive and free to roam the halls. Desperate for answers, Grace and Jenny follow the people they know and love and try to deduce what could possibly have led to the fire that hurt them both.
Afterwards is a twisty thriller, full of mystery and puzzles that will keep the reader interested. From the beginning, it’s clear that the fire wasn’t an accident. After all, Jenny was the only one who was supposed to be in the building at the time it was set. The question is, was the fire about the school as a whole, or was Jenny a target? This question opens up all possibilities, as Grace must delve into the politics of the the school as well as probe her daughter’s personal life in order to figure out what has happened.
But Grace and Jenny are limited in what they can accomplish. Because they are spirits, rather than solid beings, they can’t interact with the world around them. They can leave the hospital (with some difficulty), but they can’t affect events. It’s frustrating for Grace to have to wait patiently while others do the digging for her, though her sister-in-law Sarah is a wonderful resource. By observing, Grace gains a whole new appreciation for those around her as she sees how much people care about her and her children.
However, Afterwards does have some flaws, though these didn’t really hamper my enjoyment of the book as a whole. Grace often comes across as smug in her love for her children, which can be frustrating for the reader. Additionally, there is no explanation given for why Grace and Jenny end up as these spirit-like forms; it’s just a given that readers will accept it and move on. The book is also a bit predictable. While it never lost my interest, it’s clear from almost the first page what the final fate of these two characters will be. If you pay attention to the story, it’s not too difficult to guess the end result of the mystery either, though the final identity of the arsonist was still a shock to me.
Despite these issues, Afterwards was still an enjoyable read. Lupton has an incredible way with words, writing very literary mysteries that are breathtaking in their beauty. Her prose is mesmerizing, and it will captivate the reader from beginning to end. Readers’ hearts will break as an innocent boy is fingered for the crime and it will renew their resolve to find the culprit. The narrative is taut and suspenseful, and even if the reader sees where the mystery is going, it’s still a wild ride to the conclusion.
Other books by Rosamund Lupton: