This book is an account of the difficulties faced by the protagonist, Bea, when she finds out that her sister Tess has gone missing. It uses an unusual narrative device in that the story is recounted by Bea herself using the first person, and is told retrospectively. This really sets Sister apart from similar thrillers. On one hand I felt it was somewhat lacking in suspense and tension, as the reader is made aware almost from the very beginning that Bea knows exactly what happened to Tess and has already solved the mystery, and that the book is just her telling us how she did it. I didn't find myself rooting for Bea in the same way that I do in other thrillers where the reader learns the key facts at the same pace as the main characters or investigators. On the other hand, though, I found that the retrospective narrative meant that the human sentiments were described extremely sensitively as Bea had had time to reflect on her relationship with her sister and to process the rollercoaster of emotions she has been on.
The central mystery is soundly plotted. There are enough supporting characters and suspects that I never guessed who was culpable, and not so many that it became confusing. There are plenty of twists and turns that I didn't see coming. The final 70 pages or so found me struggling to put the book down and I have to admit I was desperately trying to find 'down time' at work today so that I could get it finished! ....JUST KIDDING boss of course if you're reading this...
Before reading Sister, one of the main criticisms of it that I've come across concerns the way that the book deals with cystic fibrosis and the field of genetics. Several of my work colleagues (who are medically trained) found these sections of the book unrealistic and complained about the lack of precise detail. For what it's worth, I disagree - I think Rosamund Lupton has done a pretty good job. OK, so some of the information about treatments for cystic fibrosis is inaccurate, but it is all within the realms of possibility at some point in the future, and I think she has made this subject easy to understand for the vast majority of her readers who don't have a medical degree!
I enjoyed Sister more than anything else I have read for a while and will definitely be seeking out a copy of Lupton's other book, Afterwards. I would recommend it to anyone who likes their crime fiction with a human and sensitive slant.
As a little side point, EVERY SINGLE TIME I have looked at/picked up this book over the past few days, I have been unable to stop humming or singing 'Sister' by Sufjan Stevens which is one of my favourite tracks. It is completely stuck in my head. It's a beautiful song, a slow starter that builds and builds. Do you ever associate a particular book with a particular piece of music?