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Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington

Writing.ie | Crime/Thriller

By Margaret Madden. http://www.bleachhouselibrary.ie/

A phone call we all dread. Someone you love has been in an accident and clings on to life in a hospital bed. A heart-stopping moment that usually leads to unanswered questions, uncovered secrets and discovery of truths.
Rachel and Evie are sisters, but have not much in common. Rachel is a successful, published author while Evie is stuck in a mind-numbing office based job, with no prospects. When Rachel receives a call from the police telling of her sister’s accident, she begins a journey that unfolds in a way she never could have anticipated. Evie is trying to warn her sister of hidden dangers but is trapped in an unresponsive body. She can hear people visiting her in her hospital room, she even sense their presence when they don’t speak, but she cannot do the one thing she wants to do. She cannot protect herself or her sister…

This is Bernice Barrington’s debut novel and it starts with a bang. Rachel’s story is revealed from the start, with day by day accounts of her quest to find out the truth about Evie’s accident. Meanwhile, the reader is drip-fed Evie’s side of the story. She has a hidden life. Her boyfriend knows nothing about her sister, her sister knows nothing about a boyfriend. Why the need for secrecy?
She is is a coma, yet her mind is frustratingly fine. She fills in the gaps for the reader but not enough for us to gain full insight. It’s a clever approach, as the tension continues to build at a steady pace. The reader is collecting nuggets of information at a slightly different angle to Rachel and this leads to more twists in the narrative. Neither of the girls are perfect. Rachel leans towards the condescending, self-absorbed, while Evie is equally flawed with her motivations lacking in common sense. There are moments when I felt frustrated with the main protagonists, almost shouting at them like at a pantomime. They both had elements of sassiness (more Rachel than Evie) but then their random innocence seeped through. This was semi-believable in the case of Evie, but not so much for Rachel. She deserved more credit with obvious intelligence. But, for all this nit-picking, I really enjoyed this debut. It is a perfect example of the ‘Grip-Lit’ genre that is riding high in the fiction bestseller lists, worldwide. The story is one that connects from the first page, the intrigue is present throughout and the thrills are ever-increasing. This is an ideal read for fans of Girl on a Train. A page-turner that may have you shouting (in your head, I hope, especially on public transport,) one minute and biting your nails the next. A strong debut, from a new Irish voice…

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