In Lydia Cooper's absorbing debut novel, we are introduced to Mickey Brandis, a brilliant twenty-eight -year-old doctoral candidate in medieval literature who is part Lisbeth Salander and part Dexter. She lives in her parents' garage and swears too often, but she never complains about the rain or cold, she rarely eats dead animals, and she hasn't killed a man since she was ten.
Her life is dull and predictable but legal, and she intends to keep it that way. But the careful existence Mickey has created in adulthood is upended when she is mysteriously led to a condemned house where she discovers an exquisitely mutilated corpse. The same surreal afternoon she is asked by a timid, wide-eyed art student to solve a murder that occurred twenty years earlier. While she gets deeper and deeper into the investigation, she begins to lose hold on her tenuous connection to reality.
The heroine of My Second Death had been described as part Lisbeth Salander and part Dexter. As a huge fan of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, I was eager to read My Second Death. I admit that I didn't immediately take to the book and it was only on my third attempt that I slowly adjusted to Mickey Brandeis. We learn early on that Mickey killed a man when she was ten. But in a matter of fact voice we also hear that she mutilated the man's body. This was enough to get me to stop reading the first two times.
But on the third attempt, I kept reading and slowly grew accustomed to her unusual and honest point of view. Mickey is removed from the world and has a problem empathizing. She doesn't understand the emotions that drive the people around her. Instead, she operates on logic and tries to keep herself from spiraling into destructive behavior. She keeps in motion, running, working, avoiding personal contact with those around her - all to keep from misbehaving.
When she is tricked into finding a corpse, Mickey's world starts to unravel. Her attempts to fight her compulsions make her a sympathetic character. As she tries help an art student uncover the truth behind a suspicious death 20 years ago, Mickey shows her humanity. it's at this point that her strange compulsions and history stop being a distraction and My Second Death becomes difficult to put down.
ISBN-10: 1440561265 - Hardcover $26
Publisher: Tyrus Books (January 18, 2013), 336 pages.
Copy courtesy of the Amazon Prime Reviewers program.
About the Author:
Lydia Cooper is an associate professor of American literature and has taught at universities and in community workshops. She has numerous academic publications, including peer-reviewed journals, a chapter in a book, and a book on Cormac McCarthy that was recently published as part of Louisiana State University Press's Souther Writers series.