Let’s begin by giving the author high marks for what is well done. In The Sister, Louise Jensen handles superbly a complex plot with a big cast of characters that unrolls over more than a decade. Grace & Charlie had been BFs since Grace had been sent away at 9 y/o to live with her grandparents, along with a couple of frenemies, Siobhan & Esmée, & a boy named Dan, who has now become Grace’s SO. (Following contemporary mores, the couple have acquired a mortgage before bothering with the ring; & yes, this absence becomes relevant to the story.) Grace tells us the story in the 1st person, jumping back & forth between past & present.
I found the subtitle of the book: A Psychological Thriller with a Brilliant Twist You Won’t See Coming utterly disarmingly ingenuous. Even tho’ the execution seemed less than brilliant, I had to admire the author’s openness about her intentions & I think she lived up to her promise, but not exactly subtly, by flooding the narrative with suspects: sort of the mystery story equivalent of the full-court press. (For example, there is more than one sister who could be the title character, who may or may not, be the mysterious villain who is persecuting Grace.) As for the thriller part at the end, where the villain puts in the frighteners, to intimidate not just one, but two adults (one, granted, “fragile” from alcoholism) into being manacled to a bed while villain’s armed only with a “paring knife” made me thoroughly incredulous. (You’d best put up a fight even if the villain wields a Bowie knife; with a paring knife there’s a good chance of emerging not much the worse for wear than if you’d tried to shave with a dull blade.)
Grace & her friends are unfortunately not very interesting people. Grace now misses their younger days “curled up in front of [a] fire with a case of Budweiser & bowls of tortilla chips & salsa, the way we all used to one Saturday night before Charlie died.” Wish I could swap countries with these characters: what is it about American crap food & culture that is so attractive to a certain kind of English person? Personally I’d prefer Old Peculiar & Stilton! Jensen can do some good stylistic effects tho” & toss a mean zeugma: I loved, after fight with boyfriend Dan: “The breakfast table is heavy with preserves & accusations” & “I sweep toast crumbs & guilt into my cupped hand.” But sometimes dialogue rings false, as when Dan says: “When Charlie died, you became so insular.” “Insular?” I mused, what would an estate agent whose only interests are sex, football & of course Budweiser know about mediaeval Irish monastic scriptoria?
I have to fault the author too for withholding information for no reason except simply to keep the reader guessing, with no relevance to the actual mystery. We don’t find out what happened to Grace’s father till we are ninety pages in, & about just how Charlie met her fate till fairly close to the end. So whilst The Sister: A Psychological Thriller with a Brilliant Twist You Won’t See Coming (oh, I so love that long subtitle!) didn’t thrill me like it did some of my GR friends, I shall keep an eye out for Louise Jensen’s future efforts.