Jeffrey Deaver’s words were splashed over the front cover, declaring Sister to exist “in that rare place where crime fiction and literature coincide”, which made it a tempting enough choice for me. The book begins “Dearest Tess” and tells us of how Beatrice (“Bee”) first came to learn her sister (Tess) was missing, then dead. Then psychotic and suicidal.
Full of the “unrequited love” that is grief, and of guilt at living in America and not being there for her sister, Bee sets out to prove that Tess was utterly incapable of killing herself; she didn’t have it in her to do such a thing. They’d lost a brother in the past. Dad had left them and their mother. Tess had been full of joie de vivre. She just wouldn’t do it.
The story and the answer to the mysteries surrounding Tess become revealed over time, changing from 1st person narrative to 2nd person when Beatrice is talking or writing to “you”, Tess. A statement by Bee to the CPS is patiently taken over days and days. Meanwhile Bee tells the story of what happens to her (and what is going into the statement) in her search to find out the truth.
Whilst Sister is a form of crime fiction, a whodunit, I wouldn’t have said it had me on the edge of my seat, or indeed had many twists and turns. But it was a true page-turner, in that once I’d started, I couldn’t put it down. Because what it did have was a reasonably intriguing guessing-game. However, I had guessed some answers way before they were revealed. Still, I don’t want to give any of this away and spoil it.
Themes that cropped up: how we fiercely want to protect those we love; families and how well we actually know our own parents, sisters, brothers; the different ways in which we deal with loss and grief; the implications of genetic research; and how our dead live on through us, continuing to help us understand the world even when they have left it.
I half-expected this to be a medical thriller of the Peter James type, which I have enjoyed. It wasn’t like that at all but I read on because I accepted Sister as it was. A story about an older sister driven by love, grief and guilt and the need to do something; to find her younger sister’s killer and protect her name, if it was the last thing she did.
I liked this debut novel and I would read Rosamund Lupton’s next book, Afterwards, but not just yet. After a winter of worsening depression (I’ve even bought a SAD lamp) I’m just about coming through it. But it didn’t stop me enjoying Sister. The next thing I’m going to read is something funny or hopeful or thrilling. Preferably it will be all three!