My Sister’s Bones – Nuala Ellwood
Final Thoughts: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Kate Rafter has spent her adult life jet-setting between war-torn countries as a hard-hitting foreign journalist. When she learns of her mother’s passing, she wearily returns to her childhood home in Herne Bay. Revisiting her past forces Kate to face her terrible memories of youth in a home where she watched her father viciously abuse her mother, seeking blame for the death of their young son David. She find no comfort in reuniting with her sister, Sally, either, an alcoholic who has locked herself away after her young daughter ran away. Despite the best efforts of Kate and Sally’s husband Paul, Sally will not let go of her vitriol, and their sisterly relationship continues its icy decay.
Kate is plagued with PTSD visions of her experiences in Syria. Haunted by the death of a young child she’d been attached to, she begins to question if her visions are real. She grows to believe that her mother’s neighbors are hiding an abused child, who she sees running around the gardens at night. But between her self-medication with sleeping pills and booze, her PTSD symptoms, and the neighbor’s insistence that nothing is wrong, she spirals herself into a detention in jail while her mental health is assessed.
The novel is divided into three parts, and at the conclusion of Part 1, Kate is released from her detention and returns to Syria for an assignment. At this time, we switch to Sally’s perspective, and here, the mystery really begins to twist and turn.
The book is strong, tonally. As we watch the main characters fight off the demons of their pasts, we are left with the feeling of the heavy burdens they all carry, from David’s death to Kate’s traumas and on to Sally’s relationship with her family. The Rafter household is rife with tragedy and somberness. As the plot unwinds, the suspense and sense of dark curiosity is perfectly laced into our experience.
The novel, from a suspense standpoint, is totally genuine. I want to give all the spoilers away right now just so I can debrief from the excitement I felt during the climax of the book. Ellwood has given us clues throughout the first half of he novel, but she never gives too much away. When we finally reach the time for the thrilling reveals, I felt enthralled and dumb at the same time, for not piecing it together sooner.
Her book has accounted for any plot holes, and all of the loose ends are tied up, which is impressive because, honestly, there was an abundance of dark mystery surrounding the characters. Elwood’s writing is so seamless, and her plot is woven so carefully, that it never felt busy or complex, even though in hindsight, there is a huge amount to reflect on.
As often happens in novels of this genre, some of the latter twists and turns were a little hard to believe. Specifically, I want to know more about the villain and their motivation for their actions. Whenever a character goes instantaneously over to the dark side, I have to wonder. But hey, I’d be down for a prequel!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but I love thrillers. And moreover, I love good thrillers, and a good thriller isn’t easy to come across. Plots often are derivative, the climaxes can be easy to predict, or the character can just be flat-out I like able in their decision making. However, My Sister’s Bonesis one of the most authentically amazing thrillers I’ve read. As always, it has drawn comparisons to The Girl on the Train, and I see the similarities: alcoholism and repressed memories play significant roles in both. But I draw the line there. My Sister’s Bones is doing its own damn thing, and it’s doing it well.