At the end of May, Claire Douglas’s debut novel, The Sisters, was released. Right from the moment that I saw the tagline — “One lied. One died.”— I was hooked! Seriously, let’s take a moment to applaud whoever came up with that line. My immediate reaction was:
And, let me tell you, it was a roller coaster ride to find out.
The Sisters picks up after Abi’s twin sister has died, and where Abi is left to pick up the pieces of her life. Her world has crumbled around her and she struggles to get by day to day. Through chance or fate or by devious design, Abi meets the vibrant Bea. Immediately she is attracted to this woman, the life she leads, and the eclectic people that she surrounds herself with. As Abi grows closer to Bea, she also grows closer to her brother, Ben. It’s not long before Abi is firmly entrenched in the lives of Bea and Ben. But Abi is determined to keep the truth of her sister’s death to herself.
As Abi’s relationship with each of the siblings develops and changes, strange things start to happen. Some of Abi’s most precious belongings go missing, and threatening messages are left in her room. Soon Abi is left unsure over whom she can trust and whether any of these new people mean her harm.
So, let’s start with the actual mysteries in the book. And yes, that’s plural. There are so many questions that the reader is left wondering about throughout the course of the novel. How did Abi’s sister die? Why is Abi to blame? Why does Bea look eerily similar to Abi? And why is Abi’s family concerned about her connection to Bea? And speaking of Bea, what is the deal with her and Ben? And who keeps threatening Abi? The list goes on.
These questions are all presented and somewhat answered through a series of cleverly crafted flashbacks and overheard conversations. Each time, the reader is given clues to the many questions that pervade the novel, but oftentimes are presented with even more conflicting information. It’s one of those books where, for each question answered, five more become apparent. In a good way. I’m one of those book-readers/movie-watchers who is constantly trying to guess the ending. I love when I spend the entirety of a film or book unsure of the final result. You get that in spades with The Sisters.
And I pin this novel’s success of uncertainty on the author’s ability to make the reader mistrust the narration. As the aforementioned clues are slowly revealed, I became more and more unsure about Abi’s motives with Bea and Ben and of her involvement in her sister’s death. Was she just making up the threatening acts as a way of pulling Ben away from Bea? Or even worse, were there more sinister motives behind her actions? I feel that in movies it’s rather easy to make the viewer lose trust in the main character; in books, that’s a much greater challenge. Particularly when the narration is told from Abi’s point of view. Douglas skillfully created a narrative where even the speaker could not be trusted, and it grips the reader from start to finish.
The setting of the book helps to create this overwhelming sense of danger throughout the novel that is suspenseful and exciting for the reader. So much of the action happens within the confines of one house. In a setting where everyone — from the readers to the characters — is unsure over whom to trust, the house becomes a fishbowl filled with tension and peril.
So if you’re looking for a suspenseful psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end, I highly recommend The Sisters. And if you do, let me know what you think in the comments below!
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