Second Sight: A Novel

Image of Second Sight: A Novel
Release Date: 
July 2, 2019
Pegasus Books
Reviewed by: 

“A riveting novel as both a mystery and a dissection of relationships, well written with superb characterizations, Second Sight is an insightful, entertaining read.”

Aoife Clifford peels away the layers of small town life to reveal personal histories and deadly secrets hidden from view—until they are not. Second Sight is a book that is impossible to put down.

Eliza Carmody returns to Kinsale, a small Australian town she left years before, vowing never to return. Now a lawyer, Eliza is forced to return to interview an expert witness for the biggest case of her career.

“Legal cases can be won or lost because of your expert, which is why I’ve agreed to meet mine in Kinsale, a place best avoided under the circumstances.”

Eliza has arranged to meet her expert witness at The Castle, a historic mansion built in the 1870s “as a homestead for a large farm.”

The farm is long gone, and The Castle is now owned by Wes and Janie Bayless, who also own a local bar. Janie has sold the property to a developer after a wildfire devastated the county, killing eight people. The Castle is due for demolition within a few days.

Janie Bayless has filed a class action suit against The Colcart Company for negligence for failing to keep electrical lines in repair. Colcart is Eliza’s client, a fact she has no one but her childhood friend, Amy Liu, Kinsale’s local GP to thank for.

“Most solicitors didn’t grow up in the town that Colcart almost burnt down,” Amy tells Eliza.

Eliza is aware of that particular fact and is uncomfortable with it. She read the list of names and had known them all. “Sometimes the only way to cope is to separate out of bits of your life and keep them in solitary confinement.”

Sometimes it isn’t possible to lock away those “bits,” as she witnesses an act of road rage by an old classmate within minutes of arriving in town. She hasn’t seen Luke Tyrell since she left Kinsale years before, and she didn’t expect him to attempt to retaliate against a tourist who attempted to drive away after a fender bender with Tony’s car.

If Tony’s damaging the offending car isn’t bad enough, he punches an Irish tourist wearing shamrock green hat hard enough to knock him backward. “A raised fist. A punch. A fall.”

Eliza tries to help the badly injured man before the EMTs arrive. A cop arrives, the last one she wants to see: Senior Sergeant Gavin Pawley, her brother-in-law.

Eliza refuses to go to her father’s old home where Gavin and her sister Tess now live, opting instead for Amy’s home. Amy is a better choice than Tess even with their discussion about the Colcart class action suit.

Events seem to escalate around Eliza. The tourist in the green hat, Paul Keenan, dies from his injuries, and Luke Tyrell has disappeared. Then the skeletonized remains of a teenage girl are found during the demolition of The Castle.

Eliza immediately wonders if the remains are those of Grace, another close friend who ran away from Kindale after a disastrous beach party on New Year’s Eve, 1986. There were witnesses who saw Grace at the train station after the party. But no one had ever seen or heard from her again.

Eliza’s dad, Mick Carmody, Kinsale’s chief of police at the time had investigated the case; in fact, he had the file with him at the time of his horrific car wreck. Mike is in a nursing home now mentally incapable of recognizing anyone or remembering anything.

Certain that the remains are those of Grace, Eliza begins her own investigation. Who saw Grace at the train station? How did she get there from the beach?  What about the wild party near The Castle that same time? Did Grace attend that party, and is that why her body was buried at The Castle?

Even after the skeleton is found not to be Grace’s, Eliza continues to pry into the events of that long ago part. When another old classmate gives Eliza a necklace he finds at the burial site that she recognizes as Grace’s, Eliza is sure that her old friend is dead.

As Eliza begins to unmask residents for who they really are, and learns secrets long hidden, she discovers that picking through the past and questioning actions and motives can be very dangerous.

There is another reason Eliza is determined to discover the truth about Grace: She fears her actions the night of the New Year’s party were the reason Grace ran off and disappeared. If Grace is dead, Eliza feels she bears some responsibility.

Second Sight is a fitting title for Aoife Clifford’s new mystery novel, because Elizabeth begins to see those she knows in Kinsale in a whole new way: her sister, Tess, whose terrible secret has twisted her life; her brother-in-law, Gavin, who has secrets of his own; and her father, whom she will never be able tell she’s sorry for her past assumptions.

A riveting novel as both a mystery and a dissection of relationships, well written with superb characterizations, Second Sight is an insightful, entertaining read. The only element that is a little disappointing is that the setting of Kinsale is not as vivid compared to the characters and plot, but that is a very minor issue when compared to the overall quality of the book.

Highly recommended for mystery and thriller fans.