Welcome to today’s stop on the blog tour for Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei (translated from the Chinese by Jeremy Tiang) and published in hardcover on 18th February 2020 by Head of Zeus. It’s also available as an ebook and audio book. Described as perfect for fans of hacker thrillers such as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, I’m delighted to bring you an extract from the book below.
Thanks to Bei at Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and for my digital review copy.
About the Book
Set against a backdrop of Hong Kong’s Umbrella protests a young woman investigates her teenage sister’s suicide, in this evocative and zeitgeisty crime novel from the acclaimed author of The Borrowed.
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.
Part detective novel, part revenge thriller, Second Sister explores themes of sexual harassment, internet bullying and teenage suicide – and vividly captures the zeitgeist of Hong Kong today.
Format: Hardcover (496 pages) Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: 18th February 2020 Genre: Crime, Thriller
Find Second Sister on Goodreads
Extract from Second Sister by Chan Ho-Kei
“Your sister killed herself.”
When Nga-Yee heard the policeman say these words in the mortuary, she couldn’t stop herself from blurting out, her speech slurred, “That’s impossible! You must have made a mistake, Siu-Man would never do such a thing.”
Sergeant Ching, a slim man of about fifty with a touch of gray at his temples, looked a littlelike a gangster, but something about his eyes told her she could trust him. Calm in the face of Nga-Yee’s near hysteria, he said something in his deep, steady voice that silenced her: “Miss Au, are you really certain your sister didn’t kill herself?”
Nga-Yee knew very well, even if she didn’t want to admit it to herself, that Siu-Man had ample reason to seek death. The pressure she’d been under for the last six months was much more than any fifteen-year-old girl should have to face.
But we should start with the Au family’s many years of misfortune.
Nga-Yee’s parents were born in the 1960s, second-generation immigrants. When war broke out between the Nationalists and Communists in 1946, large numbers of refugees began surging from the Mainland into Hong Kong. The Communists emerged victorious and brought in a new regime, cracking down on any opposition, and even more people started arriving in the safe haven of this British colony.
Nga-Yee’s grandparents were refugees from Guangzhou. Hong Kong needed a lot of cheap labor and rarely turned away people who entered the territory illegally, and her grandparents were able to put down roots, eventually getting their papers and becoming Hong Kongers. Even then, they led difficult existences, doing hard manual labor for long
hours and low wages. Their living conditions were terrible too. Still, Hong Kong was going through an economic boom, and as long as you were prepared to suffer a little, you could improve your circumstances. Some even rode the wave to real success.
Unfortunately, Nga-Yee’s grandparents never got the chance.
In February 1976 a fire in the Shau Kei Wan neighborhood on Aldrich Bay destroyed more than a thousand wooden houses, leaving more than three thousand people homeless. Nga-Yee’s grandparents died in this inferno, survived by a twelve-year-old child: Nga-Yee’s father, Au Fai. Not having any other family in Hong Kong, Au Fai was taken in by a neighbor who’d lost his wife in the fire. The neighbor had a seven-year-old daughter named Chau Yee-Chin. This was Nga-Yee’s mom.
Because they were so poor, Au Fai and Chau Yee-Chin didn’t have the chance for a real education. Both started work before coming of age, Au Fai as a warehouse laborer, Yee-Chin as a waitress at a dim sum restaurant. Although they had to toil for a living, they never complained, and they even managed to find a crumb of happiness when they fell in love. Soon they were talking of marriage. When Yee-Chin’s father fell ill in 1989,
they wed quickly so at least one of his wishes could be fulfilled before he died.
For a few years after that, the Au family seemed to have shaken themselves free of bad fortune.
Three years after their marriage, Au Fai and Chau Yee-Chin had a daughter. Yee-Chin’s father had been an educated youth in China. Before his death, he’d told them to call their child Chung-Long for a boy, Nga-Yee for a girl – “Nga” for elegance and beauty, “Yee” for joy.
The family of three moved into a small tenement flat in To Kwa Wan, where they lived a meager but contented existence. When Au Fai got back from work each day, the smiling faces of his wife and daughter made him feel that there was nothing more he could ask for in this world. Yee-Chin managed the household well. Nga-Yee was bookish and well-behaved, and all Au Fai wanted was to earn a little more money so she could go to university one day rather than having to get a job halfway through secondary school as he and his wife had had to do. Academic qualifications were now necessary to get ahead in Hong Kong. In the 1970s and ’80s you could get a job as long as you were willing to work hard, but times had changed.
When Nga-Yee was six, the god of fortune smiled on the Au family: after years on the waiting list, it was finally their turn to get a government flat. […]
Two years after moving into Wun Wah House, Chau Yee-Chin was pregnant again. Au Fai was delighted to be a father twice over, and Nga-Yee was old enough to understand that becoming an elder sister meant she’d have to work hard to help share her parents’ burden. Because his father-in-law had left only one name for each sex, Au Fai was stuck for a second girl’s name. He turned to their neighbor, a former schoolteacher, for help.
“How about calling her Siu-Man?” the old man suggested as they sat on a bench outside their building. “Sui as in ‘little’ and Man as in ‘clouds coloured by twilight.'”
Au Fai looked to where the old man was pointing and saw the setting sun turning the clouds a dazzling array of hues. “Au Siu-Man…that’s a nice-sounding name. Thanks for your help, Mr. Huang. I’m too ignorant to have ever come up with something so beautiful on my own.”
About the Author
Chan was born and raised in Hong Kong. He has worked as a software engineer, game designer, manga editor, and lecturer. Chan wrote made his debut as a writer in 2008 at the age of thirty-three, with the short story ‘The Case of Jack and the Beanstalk’ which was shortlisted for the Mystery Writers of Taiwan Award. Chan re-entered the following year and won the award for his short story ‘The Locked Room of Bluebeard’.
Chan reached the first milestone of his writing career in 2011 with his novel The Man who Sold the World which 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 crime thriller The Borrowed was published in Taiwan. It has sold rights in thirteen countries, and the book will be adapted into a film by acclaimed Chinese art film director Wong Kar-Wai. Second Sister has acquired a six-figure film deal with Linmon Pictures in China. The book will be published in the US in 2020 and rights have been sold to China, Korea and Japan.
About the Translator
Jeremy Tiang’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, Esquire and Quarterly Literary Review Singapore. He has written four plays and translated more than ten books from the Chinese. Tiang lives in New York.