A Dour Thriller

Author: Laurie Petrou

Penny and Hattie are two sides of the same warped coin. Two sisters with a deadly secret and a toxic relationship, competing for love and attention, for success and attainment, for escape and meaning. As the years unfurl, the secrets get darker, more nuanced, the jealousies develop and invade, the favors owed and rendered multiply in seriousness, and the stakes increase with the introduction of a love affair, a dream, and a child.

As Sister of Mine unspools, going back and forth in time, revealing petty betrayals, devastating secrets, and uncoiling jealousies, the story follows the legacy of the two sisters, from their first duplicities in childhood to their adult interactions. It’s an increasingly unhealthy relationship, one with lies and fake affection, backbiting and demands. We start by hating Hattie, the popular, pretty sister, but we end by hating all of the characters: Penny, Hattie, and the man that comes between them. There are no sympathetic villains here, only tired devils living in broken towns, playing petty games, stuck by fear and a strange co-dependency.

These characters’ lives are a mess, for sure, one that is tangentially interesting and yet, ultimately, everyone here deserves the catastrophe that awaits. Their selfishness and small thinking, their stupidity and lazy evil, earn them a place in this industrialized, destroyed town with its apathetic drunkards, wife-beating husbands, dim shops, and forever grey skies. No one in this tale deserves any better, and while we try to maintain an interest, the very dinginess of the atmosphere, the dead emotions of the self-pitying characters, the listless, lifeless narration, stagnates, transforming our interest into a smokey, ephemeral pall. We’d rather brush it all away and be done with these people, this place, and their dissipated lives.

Image by Dawn Rose from Pixabay

The grand finale, with its drama and fires and tears, is the only part of the piece that comes out of the grey scale telling, but here the vibrancy is far too fake, too affected, to match the depressing story of slow disintegration. It’s forced and overwrought. While everything else had a sad believability, the ending is altogether too poetic for this down-to-earth story of familial treachery and what goes on behind closed doors.

But, for all my complaints, Sister of Mine was not a bad story. It was not, however, the thriller that the cover promised. It’s more of a sleeper story, one with a certain amount of quality, but nothing especially memorable. Had the characters been more empathetic, had the telling been less heavy-handed on the dark-and-stormy attempt, then the story could have been quite good. While slow, the character actions have a certain horrifying nature to them, and there is one fairly good twist that I did not see coming. There is promise and entertainment here.

This is a mediocre read for a dour winter’s day; it still has bits and pieces that stimulate the imagination and get us somewhat involved in the story, if not in love with it. Like so many books that try for that twisted family, deep dark secrets aura, this story falls far short of what is promised, but not in a dramatically horrible way. It’s ok. It’s entertaining. It has moments of lyrical beauty even, and a few interesting twists. Considering that I got this free off Audible, it was certainly a good deal and a decent read.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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