Grace hasn't been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie's words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie's. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn't know about her best friend.
When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie's father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie's sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan's home.
But something isn't right. Things disappear, Dan's acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace's mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?
There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie ...or was there?
The stunning cover was the first thing that attracted me to this book. Whatever the story within, I think I would have read this book blindly just because of its cover. The blurb was then tantalizing enough for me to go ahead. I love the idea of mysteries involving some hidden box of secrets as we have in this case.
"I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me."
The story revolves around two inseparable friends - Grace and Charlie. Some ten years earlier the two friends buried a box filled with their memories, hopes and dreams in the woods, vowing to be the only ones to reopen it together at some time in the future. However, we know that in the meantime Charlie disappeared for six whole years, then something terrible happened to her and she died. Her last words have haunted Grace ever since. Determined to find out what terrible thing Charlie did to require Grace's forgiveness, Grace starts by finding and reopening the hidden box. Reading through a letter written by Charlie, she discovers that one of her dreams was to find her father. Who was this man? Could he answer some of Grace's questions? Grace decides to try and find him.
"Can you ever really know someone? Properly know someone?"
Soon after setting up a blog to find Charlie's father, Grace and her boyfriend Dan, receive a reply from a young woman called Anna, claiming to be Charlie's half sister. Upon meeting her, Grace is sure this woman is telling the truth and they immediately click and become friends. Grace invites Anna to live with her and Dan till she finds a new job and a place to live. From then on, strange and awful things start happening to Grace. Is it just a coincidence that these things start happening now? Who is Anna? Is she really who she says she is? And why is Dan so against Anna's presence at home?
Well this book is so brilliantly written that I couldn't believe it's just the author's debut thriller. It starts off immediately with a number of mysteries. The author fills the reader's mind with many, many questions that make it impossible not to continue reading. For example, we know that Charlie wasn't the only one to have done something wrong. Grace too did something terrible for which she feels guilty and because of which she has been sent to live with her grandparents in another town. But what did she do?
The plot is densely weaved and at times very tense. I could feel the oppressive aura portrayed throughout the plot. Chapters alternate between 'Then' and 'Now', that is when Charlie was still alive and the present and each one leaves the reader with more questions than answers as the mystery is slowly unraveled.
All characters are realistic and strongly portrayed. I felt sorry for Grace. She's edgy and paranoid all the time. She didn't deserve the horrible things happening to her, but I thought she was a bit too naive at times. I didn't much like Dan and his aloofness and I was immediately suspicious of Anna's behaviour. I wanted to give an almighty shake and slap Lexie hard on more than one occasion!
At times I thought the plot was maybe a bit too slow, for example I couldn't wait to see what was in Charlie's letter as much as Grace, but it took the author almost 15% of the book to tell us what's in it! However, other than that I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a great debut and a fab mystery with ongoing tension, twists and turns. And I'll be looking out for more books by this new author.
With thanks to Bookouture publishers for approving my request to read and review this book through Netgalley.
Louise lives in Northamptonshire with her husband, children, madcap spaniel and a rather naughty cat. The Sister is Louise's debut novel.
Louise loves to hear from readers and writers and can be found at www.louisejensen.co.uk, where she regularly blogs flash fiction.