Karen Dionne's debut novel, The Marsh King, was a runaway bestseller. She follows that success up with her newly released second novel, The Wicked Sister.
Rachel either committed or witnessed a horrific crime as a child. She has virtually no memory of the death of her parents at their remote log cabin. She ran into the woods and wasn't found for two weeks. Remarkedly, she was in good shape. Fifteen years later, she has chosen to keep herself voluntarily locked away in a psychiatric hospital. For company, she often speaks to the spider in the corner of her room. But when the journalist brother of another resident takes an interest in the killing and offers up new evidence, Rachel knows she has to confront her past - if she can remember it.
Dionne employs one of my favorite storytelling devices with past and present narratives. We follow Rachel in the present as she tries to find answers. And we meet Jenny, Rachel's mother as we come to know the past. How Rachel and her sister, Diana, grew up on a large wilderness property, communing with nature. That back and forth technique always makes for addictive reading - having to get back to a timeline, armed with new knowledge.
The Marsh King's Daughter had fairy tale elements woven through it and I found myself looking (and finding) the same in The Wicked Sister. Deep in a wood with an enchanted feel, animals endowed with a magical feel, a good sister vs. a bad sister, and more.
Dionne did a really good job with her characters. The confusion of one sister and the incarnate evil of the other jumped off the page. There are some really creepy scenes that had me shivering.
The title's a bit of a giveaway - we know that one of them is evil, but it's a roundabout trail to the final answer. One element used was a bit of a stretch for me - but note that I am quite pragmatic. A decidedly different read with the suspense genre label. Here's an excerpt of The Wicked Sister.
Just for fun, look up the meanings of both names - I wonder if Dionne chose the names for her lead characters based on their meanings?