Reviewed by Lindsay Denninger -

Afterwards: A Novel by Rosamund Lupton

    Crown - April 24, 2012
    ISBN 978-0307716545, $13.99 (hardcover)

Rosamund Luptonís second book, Afterwards: A Novel, opens on a typical scene in any elementary or primary school: a field day, with children running races and winning ribbons, screaming and laughing at an afternoon spent outside of the confines of the classroom. But when black smoke begins to pour out of the school, a parent realizes her eldest child, seventeen-year-old Jenny, is still inside.

As Grace runs in, she is overcome by smoke and wakes standing over her comatose body, connected to breathing tubes and heart monitors in the hospital. Jenny, her corporeal form badly burned, is also standing with her. Stuck in this purgatory, together they must find the arsonist who set the blaze in order to come back to the world of the living or journey through into the world of the dead.

Lupton is a talented mystery and suspense writer. She avoids the cliché and hackneyed by supplying a certain degree of intellectualism in her work—after all, Lupton herself went to Cambridge University. However, in comparison to her debut novel, Sisterł the investigation seems overwrought. Whereas Sisterís pacing was even and complete, with a head-turner of an ending, Afterwards is clumsier, slower, and, in some spots, a bit boring, with slumps between bursts of arson-solving speed.

Though sporting another unexpected ending, Afterwards takes a while to get there. The ending of the novel ties up nicely, albeit with a few tears, but some readers may not persevere through Graceís numerous soliloquies to reach it. Fans of mystery writing should take note of Luptonís supreme talent, but start at the beginning of her bibliography to admire her aptitude.