Title: My Sister’s Bones
Author: Nuala Ellwood
Published: January 30th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Books
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Psychological, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 3.5 stars
ARE YOU BRAVE ENOUGH TO GO BACK?
Kate Rafter is a successful war reporter. She’s the strong one. The one who escaped Herne Bay and the memories it holds. Her sister Sally didn’t. Instead, she drinks.
But when their mother dies, Kate is forced to return to the old family home. And on her first night she is woken by a terrifying scream.
What secret has Kate stumbled upon?
And is she strong enough to uncover the truth . . . and make it out alive?
My Sister’s Bones opens with a hooking premise. The key player in this novel, finds herself in a police station being interviewed by a police psychologist. The psychologist is trying to determine if the book’s lead character Kate needs to be sectioned for her own health and safety, as part of the mental health act. We learn Kate is a war correspondent, who has witnessed many atrocities and these seem to have surfaced upon her return home. It is a question of deciding whether or not Kate’s claims are valid – or is she an unreliable narrator suffering from PTSD.
Nuala Ellwood’s debut offering in the popular psychological thriller writing scene, is a hard hitting release. The main character Kate’s horrific and life altering experiences from her time as a war correspondent, guarantees this novel packs a punch. Kate is the chief narrator of this novel, but the perspective does shift on to sister Sally, who is suffering from the effects of substance abuse. My Sister’s Bones gradually reveals information about the Kate and Sally’s tragic past. We learn they suffered years of abuse at the hands of their violent and alcoholic father. The recent death of their mother brings Kate back home from her job overseas. This is also when Kate’s nightmares begin and things get creepy. Kate is convinced she sees a small boy in the garden of her deceased mother’s home and believes he may be a neighbour, being abused. However, Kate’s grip on reality, particularly the here and now is unclear, as we are not entirely sure if the small boy Kate is fretting for exists. We must consider the possibility that the boy is simply the product of Kate’s wild imagination, rising from the ashes of her time spent in many treacherous war torn locations.
On the whole, I found My Sister’s Bones a well written psychological thriller. Nuala Ellwood is new on the writing scene, but this does not stop her delivering a novel that was well researched in the area of PTSD and the role of a war correspondent. In fact, Nuala Ellwood’s own background and family history in this area, which I discovered after reading this book, would have helped enormously in crafting her first book. As a result, My Sister’s Bones came across as realistic and sensitive to the issues at the heart of this novel.
My Sister’s Bones follows a steady pace and there are some good turns put in place by the author. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this novel. It took me to places I did not anticipate, but I do appreciate being shaken up by a book every now and then. There seemed to be a large focus on the build up to the big reveal near the end of the novel. This big reveal was shocking to stay the least and I did not see this turn of events coming at all.
The use of shifting time frames and two character voices is utilised to full effect by Nuala Ellwood. This enables the reader to get a significant insight into Kate and her sister Sally’s worlds – both in the past and in the present. Kate and Sally’s lives are not easy ones to stomach, from child abuse, alcoholism, teen pregnancy and Kate’s harrowing war experiences. My Sister’s Bones does not make for light reading. Despite this, I did find that Nuala Ellwood handled these issues with the correct level of dignity.
A domestic thriller that leans strongly on the psychological, My Sister’s Bones was a haunting and confronting read. Nuala Ellwood is a new writer that I will be sure to watch out for in the future, as I appreciated her dark and twisty tale.
My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood was published in January 2017 by Penguin Books. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.