A Book Spy Review: ‘The Second Sleep’ by Robert Harris

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The Second SleepNew York Times bestselling author Robert Harris wows with this latest thriller, where nothing is ever quite what it seems—and the stakes are even higher than readers could ever predict.

Sent by a Bishop to perform the burial of controversial priest in the year of 1468, Christopher Fairfax, himself a young and reluctant priest, journeys to a remote Exmoor village to see the job through in hopes of promptly returning home following the ceremony. Instead, a major twist awaits him.

It’s impossible to talk about or review this book without accidentally spoiling some of the plot’s best surprises, but without going into great detail—Fairfax, after initially believing he was given the wrong directions, finds the small village in the middle of nowhere. There, he also discovers a number of heretical artifacts that belonged to the dead priest, including one very recognizable device that—the moment readers come across it—slaps you in the face with the reality that Harris, like a magician, has pulled off what may very well be the best twist of his career.

The year, it turns out, is not truly 1468—but without revealing more than that, trust me, the twist prompts a dizzying shock that changes everything. Heck, even the title itself, after the big reveal, becomes a spoiler of sorts, as Harris’ genre-bending thriller takes on new life, and dives into an unthinkable, wild exploration of religion and end-of-the-world prophecy . . . and all of that takes place within the first fifty pages.

While different than anything he’s ever written, The Second Sleep is more on par with Harris’ Munich or An Officer and a Spy, not so much in plot similarities, but rather in overall quality. Whereas books like Conclave and Fatherland were daring—but ultimately lacked punch and missed the mark—Harris’ latest is another risky attempt. Thankfully, this one lands squarely, and those who read it will find themselves thinking and talking about it long after turning the final page.

The Second Sleep is Robert Harris’ most daring novel to date—the payoff being a captivating, enthralling thriller that’s unlike anything else you’ll find sitting on store shelves . . . and the less you know about this one going into it, the more you’ll enjoy the many surprises waiting just head.

Book Details

Author: Robert Harris
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0525656693
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: November 19, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 7.0/10

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Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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