Is My Sister’s Bones really the next The Girl on the Train?


United By Pop received a free copy of My Sister’s Bones in exchange for an honest review, all opinions are our own.

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Title: My Sister’s Bones

Author: Nuala Ellwood

Purchase: Available in the UK and the US

Overall rating: 4/5

Great for: Fans of Maile MeloyJ.P. Delaney and Simon Lelic

Themes: Adult, contemporary, thriller, mystery and suspense

My Sister's Bones by Nuala Ellwood

Review: The book contains a multitude of disparate mysteries that all are seemingly unconnected… until they aren’t. Linked only by the protagonist they centre around, this is a thriller on a large global and political scale, the likes of which I have not encountered in a mystery novel, for quite some time.

This began at a relatively slow pace and fooled me into believing I was aware of where this book was taking me. Falling into this trap of presupposed assumptions proved to intensify the shock I felt when this book revealed it was about so much more than what it initially appeared.

Kate Rafter is a well-known and widely-respected war reporter, who has spent much of her adult life amongst bombed-out and poverty-stricken regions most others avoid… But all these pale in comparison to where she grew up, and what she discovers there is far less alarming than the childhood she is still running from. But when the death of her mother unwillingly returns her to this past life, she realises what she has been hoping to avoid is something she can never run from. A return to the idyllic seaside family home only serves to bring back how much she longs to flee, and how there isn’t anywhere where the horrors of her life can’t reach her.

This is a novel that has many separate threads, but the point on which they all converge is always with Kate. The trauma she endured in Syria combats against the inescapable memories of the past, and both become bound into her present grief until she can no longer discern fact from fiction. With the merging of these two separate entities, both the reader and Kate herself are constantly striving to decipher the true events from those imagined. This transforms this into a novel that incorporates a depth of subject matter into the central thrilling plot-line.

This novel confronts the harsh reality of the chaos of our world. As a reader, we are somewhat distanced from it. For our protagonist, there is no such distance provided and she is left to cope with the devastating effects on her mental and physical well-being, alone. This exploration is one I found both a painful yet mandatory, and the viewpoint helped navigate this novel as well as the world at large.

And this is just one of the many poignant topics ‘My Sister’s Bones’ diverges on to. Domestic abuse, alcoholism, abduction, immigration… I could go on. This is a novel that is fearless is the breadth of subjects it addresses, and it does each one an illuminating and sensitive justice.

I went into this expecting nothing more than a passive yet suspenseful read. What I received was something that made me think. This delivers point after point about the injustice and savagery abundant in the modern world and, through one story, the reader is invited to open their eyes and notice it. We can’t all be highly-paid war reporters, but we can all become aware of the horror that may live on our own doorsteps.

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