Having a sister of my own, Auntie M was intrigued when another writer insisted I read this 2010 mystery by Londoner Rosamund Lupton, who wrote original screenplays before turning her hand to this debut novel that will knock your socks off. Sister has at its heart an unusual concept of a way to tell a story, and that story will leave you hooked and reeling from page one.

   Beatrice Hemmings has fled her native England to pursue a career in Manhattan and is engaged to be married in three months to an American. While hosting a dinner party with her fiance’ one Sunday,  a call from her mother interrupts the evening when Bee learns that her only sibling, younger sister Tess, has gone missing. Bee soon finds herself flying across the Atlantic to Tess’s Notting Hill apartment.

She find the flat tiny and cluttered. Not even owning a tea kettle, art student Tess has made her bedroom into her studio for the better light. Her bright paintings reflect her personality, open and nonjudgmental, young and talented, with a joy of live Bee has always envied. That central core of Tess’s life will drive Bee fiercely to protect her sisters’ memory.

The suspense starts with a wallop because this is written as Bee is describing the events and what she finds in a narrative to Tess, explaining her actions and tracing her search for her sister, which ends in tragedy. Then Bee’s real investigation starts, to unravel the truth the police would rather leave alone: what really happened to Tess?

Elegantly written, this poignant novel becomes a tribute to sisters as well as a harrowing detailing of the plundering toll of grief. But it is also a wickedly fine mystery that is at once riveting a it moves the reader. By having the reader in such intimate contact with Bee’s thoughts and actions to Tess, Lupton paints a picture of both sisters, the failings of those around them who are meant to do and be more, and the huge sense of loyalty that Bee brings to the forefront of her actions on her sister’s behalf.

There is an element of subdued suspense that heightens as surely as a Hitchcock movie, and indeed, this novel will soon be adapted for the screen. Grab a copy of this highly original book and read it first before the film version. As good as the movie will be, nothing can replace the psychological intensity of the novel and the twists at the ending.

With the same psychological depth of character found in the works of Kate Atkinson, Tana French, and Ruth Rendell, Lupton’s riveting and chilling tale combines true tragedy with a sense of life-affirmation that moved me to tears in several places for the accuracy and depth of its compellingly told story. It’s a quickly-paced, stylish tale, literate and successful.

BookPage calls Sister “A poignant and perceptive depiction of the emotional bonds between two sisters … A superb thriller, full of twists and turns, false leads, and a surprise ending.”
Lupton follows Sister with the same original storytelling in Afterwards, with another clever premise and solid writing the makes her second novel as compelling as her first.

Grace Covey stands with other parents on a grassy field, attending sports day at her son’s school, which coincides with Adam’s eighth birthday. Her teenaged daughter, Jenny, is inside the school, taking the place of the school nurse for minor injuries. When Grace sees black smoke coming from the school, she realizes it’s on fire and races inside to save Jenny.

What happens next is the stuff that makes this book remarkable, as Grace, in an highly unconventional manner, tries to find the person responsible for setting the fire once it appears Jenny was the deliberate target. Grace desperately races to find the culprit to protect both of her children, and in the process, uncovers more than she ever expected to find about the people in her life.

This is a novel about love in its many forms, from that of a mother and her daughter, to the cushion of secure, married love. Ultimately is it about finding courage in the midst of the depths of a mother’s love for her child.

Jeffrey Deaver says of Afterwards: “Uncompromising emotional impact, a poet’s sonorous style, and a gripping story all come together to make this a transcendent literary experience. I guarantee this novel will touch everyone.”

Lupton’s powerful stories and  and her voice will captivate you; Auntie M defies you to put either of these books down once you’ve started reading.

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