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  • Barbara Copperthwaite

Review: MY SISTER’S BONES, Nuala Ellwood

My Sister's Bones, by Nuala Ellwood. Review by Barbara Copperthwaite

A tense, slow-burning tale that has a blistering end.


If you can't trust your sister, then who can you trust?

Kate Rafter has spent her life running from her past. But when her mother dies, she's forced to return to Herne Bay - a place her sister Sally never left.

But something isn't right in the old family home. On her first night Kate is woken by terrifying screams. And then she sees a shadowy figure in the garden...

Who is crying for help? What does it have to do with Kate's past? And why does no one - not even her sister - believe her?


My Sister’s Bones is cleverly woven, and features a journalist struggling with PTSD after covering several reporting stints in Syria – which makes it very relevant to today. At a time when journalists are under more and more pressure to come up with stories as quickly as possible, often while placing themselves in danger, and for little monetary reward (and with people screaming ‘fake news’ at the them) it’s refreshing to see such an accurate depiction, as opposed to the usual clichés trotted out by too many authors. This author has clearly done her research (she has close relatives who are journalists) and it shines through, making the character’s mental health struggles all the more realistic and heart-breaking after the terrible sights she has seen.

Kate’s mother died recently, their father died years before, a bitter and twisted man haunted by the death of his son, and Kate’s sister is an angry alcoholic. Welcome to the family from hell. No wonder Kate would rather live in a war zone.

The PTSD is at the heart of the tale: is Kate falling apart and imagining things? Is she being haunted by ghosts from her past? Or is something more sinister going on? Given that from the start we know that Kate is being detained under the Mental Health Act, as the story darts back in time, we can only have a growing sense of unease about what is coming. Just what has Kate done to get herself locked up? And who has died? These questions are set up from the start, and keep you turning page after page in the rush to discover the truth.

There are several clever shifts in the writing, which don’t so much provide twists as changes in perspective which both muddy some points you thought were clear before, and clear some points that were muddy before. I really liked this. Plus, of course, there are the more traditional plot twists that take you in the most unexpected of directions. Ingenious!

This book had me hooked right from the off. There were a couple of niggles that I won’t go into, as they would be spoilers, but despite that I would definitely recommend this book. A tense, slow-burning tale that has a blistering end.

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