My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

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My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A dark thriller with a twist from nowhere, just when we think we know where we're going. Deliciously clever!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Penguin
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0241977279

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Kate Rafter is a newspaper journalist, always at the centre of a crisis. It was while she was away reporting such a crisis (the war in Syria) that she missed her mother's funeral. Coming home afterwards, Kate walks back into the memories and enmity that have rattle through her family for as long as she can remember. Now both Kate and her sister Sally are dealing with their own demons; different from each other but just as scary. However, the reasons behind them and the path that fate has planned for their futures are even scarier.

It was almost inevitable with a father and sister in journalism that Nuala Ellwood's debut thriller would include a journalist. That also makes it inevitable it'll be lifelike. Kate Rafter's life isn't packed with the glamour and enviable jet setting that many of us on the outside may connect with the profession. Via Kate Nuala shows us the dark, disturbing results of a career spent bringing war-torn areas to our daily consciousness. The war torn area in this case is the tragedy that is Aleppo.

Kate is shrouded in corrosive war zone memories and, courtesy of her childhood, these are layered onto pre-existing nightmares. She comes from a background riven by domestic abuse and a sister who's now an alcoholic so this isn't a novel we come away from singing a cheery theme tune. Yet part of Nuala's gifting is to draw us in further and further until she hits us with an amazing, climactic suite of twists.

On the way we skip logically and accessibly between Kate's police interview post-arrest and her life that led to this moment. (No - not saying what the arrest is for. This is for you to discover as well as the latter chapters taking us beyond.)

Gradually the story unfolds, introducing us to her now-deceased parents, Chris (the love of her life), drink-raddled Sally and Kate's brother-in-law Paul who is trying to hold everything together. As the reasons behind it unfold, we want to learn more about events that are enticingly drip fed to us amongst Kate's delusion-drenched PTSD. Our concern also drifts away from the family to the lady next door. (That's all I'm saying about that too!)

At this stage I'd normally liken it to another specific novel for its climactic punch but that may in itself be a giveaway so I won't. Let's just say that the aforementioned climactic twist cunningly has a number of elements. We may pre-guess some but the remainder come so far out of left field, they'll elicit a 'Well I never!' if not a gasp. (Ok, I admit it; I was indeed serial-gasping by the end!)

As we finish that last page we have a better understanding of lives in conflict, in all senses. It's all as deeply affecting as it is intriguing and fascinating. However new realisations about the life of a war correspondent may hit us harder, showing us another facet of the cost of relaying the truth.

Penguin Viking spent a fair whack of money to bring Nuala's first two novels to their publishing house and, from the look of novel number 1, it was definitely money well spent. I have a feeling Ms Ellwood is a talented author who will keep us up reading half the night while perching on the edge of our seats for many years to come.

(Thank you so much to the good folk at Penguin for providing us with a copy for review. We also have a review of The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood.)

Further Reading: If you enjoy a good psychological thriller, then we just as eagerly recommend Distress Signals by Catherine Ryan Howard. For more from Nuala Ellwood, we can recommend The Perfect Life

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