Recent Events

Friday 30 October 2020

‘The Wicked Sister’ by Karen Dionne

Published by Sphere,
4 August 2020.
ISBN: 978-0-75156742-7 (HB)

Jenny and Peter Cunningham died 15 years ago from gunshot wounds.  When the police arrived, their youngest daughter Rachel was missing.  After a two-week search Rachel was found lying on a highway.  She had lost the ability to speak and couldn’t remember what had happened, except that she believed that she had been responsible for her parents’ deaths.  At the time the circumstances of the Cunningham’s violent end was difficult to piece together, but eventually it was concluded that this was a murder-suicide perpetrated by Peter.  When her ability to speak returned Rachel immediately confessed that she had killed her mother and father - no one believed her. 

At the beginning of the narrative, Rachel is 26, and living in “Newberry Regional Mental Health Center”.  When we first encounter her, she is talking to a spider!  Her sister Diana and Aunt Charlotte no longer visit Rachel.  She has befriended Scotty, a fellow patient and she, in turn, has been befriended by Scotty’s brother, a regular visitor.  Trevor, who is studying journalism, has also become interested in Rachel’s story and wants to write an article about her.  She agrees and he begins to research the horrific incident that Rachel has blacked out of her mind.  When she takes a look at the police paperwork surrounding the case, she learns something so shocking that she checks out of the hospital and makes her way home.

Home is in a remote area of Michigan, an idyllic setting where Charlotte and Diana now live together.  When Rachel arrives at the lodge, she last saw on the day her parents died, she begins to discover some uncomfortable truths and it quickly transpires that her own life may be in danger.

The narrative is told from two first person viewpoints both written in the present tense.  Rachel’s contemporary perspective opens the novel and this alternates with her mother’s account of the historical events as they happen.  The clever dual perspective injects the narrative with increasingly quickening pace as the mother and daughter plots move ever closer before colliding in the denouement.  The author’s use of language is economical and punchy, perfectly suited to the action. 

Characters are drawn with pinpoint clarity and their complicated psychologies are described with chilling and credible accuracy.  The landscape becomes a character in its own right as do the creatures that inhabit it.  The interaction between the beautiful, wild and hostile environment and the animals and humans who share it is as devastating as it is fascinating.

The Wicked Sister is an exploration of terrifying psychopathic behaviour.  Some scenes are depicted with visceral accuracy which highlights the propensity for gratuitous cruelty which is, sadly, unique to some human beings.  Dionne creates tension and terror in equal measure as her characters fight for survival in an unforgiving world.  This is scary psychological thriller at its best and highly recommended.

Reviewer: Dot Marshall-Gent

Karen Dionne
 is the internationally published author of Boiling Point, an  environmental thriller about an erupting volcano, a missing researcher, and a radical scheme to end global warming. Karen is cofounder of the online writers community Backspace, and organizes the Backspace Writers Conferences held in New York City every year. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, and the International Thriller Writers, where she serves on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology. Karen has been honored by the Michigan Humanities Council as a Humanities Scholar for her body of work as an author, writer, and as co-founder of Backspace. Karen blogs at The Huffington Post, and has written about the publishing industry from an authors’ perspective for DailyFinance. She also reviews for The New York Journal of Books

Dot Marshall-Gent  worked in the emergency services for twenty years first as a police officer, then as a paramedic and finally as a fire control officer before graduating from King’s College, London as a teacher of English in her mid-forties.  She completed a M.A. in Special and Inclusive Education at the Institute of Education, London and now teaches part-time and writes mainly about educational issues.  Dot sings jazz and country music and plays guitar, banjo and piano as well as being addicted to reading mystery and crime fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment