Nuala Ellwood's debut novel is My Sister's Bones.
Kate Rafter returns home for the first time in many, many years for her mother's funeral. She and her sister Sally had a traumatic upbringing - Kate made her own escape and Sally escaped into a liquor bottle. They have never really reconciled their differences and not much seems to have changed now, even with their mother's death.
Ellwood puts her own spin on the 'unreliable narrator' that very often populates psychological suspense novels. Her lead character, Kate, is a seasoned war reporter suffering from PTSD - post traumatic stress disorder. She has seen many horrific events over the course of her fifteen year career. Those memories are intruding on her present, making her question her own actions, thoughts and what she is even seeing. For you see, Kate is sure there is a little boy in the house next door. He's out late at night and Kate is concerned about him. But when she confronts the neighbour, she is told there are no children in the house......
I enjoyed the uncertainty of what was going on with Kate, trying to guess what was real and what was her hallucinations. I started out firmly on Kate's side, but found some of her decisions a bit off putting as the story progressed. There is no gray area around Sally - she is definitely a bitter, broken woman - but one I found hard to sympathize with. She is given a voice with part two being her narrative. Sally's husband Paul I found decidedly smarmy (I love this descriptor!) and couldn't understand why Kate would spend so much time with him.
I was pulled into the story and certainly wanted to know where Ellwood would take her tale. The last few chapters are quite busy, with actions and answers rapidly appearing. I had my suspicions along the way and was somewhat right in my guesses. But, I have to say that I found the final twist and resolution somewhat tawdry. There were some plot actions at this point that I found a bit far fetched and questioned the veracity of them actually happening.
Ellwood's inclusion of PTSD, the horrors of war torn countries and the people trapped in those situations, brings a sobering dose of reality to this fictional tale. Ellwood's research and depiction of the aforementioned is very well done - and thought provoking. Read an excerpt of My Sister's Bones.
"Nuala Ellwood is the daughter of an award-winning journalist. Inspired by her father’s and other journalists’ experiences with post-traumatic stress disorder, she gained Arts Council Funding for her research into the topic and ultimately made it the main theme of My Sister’s Bones, her debut psychological thriller." You can connect with Nuala Ellwood on her website and follow her on Twitter.
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I received this book for review from HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours.