After the death of her mother, Kate Rafter is forced to return to the family home in Herne Bay from Syria where she has been working as a war reporter. Having not returned for many years, Kate is troubled by past memories and is also traumatized by the events she has witnessed in Aleppo. With a sister who drinks to excess and who seemingly has a self-destruct button, Kate’s only ally is her brother-in-law, Paul, who has been struggling to keep his life together. When Kate begins to hear screams and sees a young boy in the garden, are they hallucinations from the medication she is taking or is there something much more sinister going on?
From the outset, we know that Kate has committed a crime as she is undergoing a psychological assessment at a police station. What we don’t know, however, is what she has been accused of doing. Through these interviews, we get to see two sides of Kate – the tough, determined woman who risks life and limb on a daily basis to report from the horrors of Aleppo and also the emotional, caring person who is distraught by the memories of a young boy she befriended in Syria who, we assume, has since died. It soon becomes apparent that she has hurt someone since being back in Herne Bay, but who? I loved the way the author shifts between the psych interviews and the events taking place at Kate’s mother’s house as this left me desperately wanting to know what happened to link the two.
Kate is a very difficult character to understand – are the strange occurrences really happening or are they figments of her imagination? With all she has witnessed in her past, there is no doubt that it would be understandable if she was hallucinating but then there are more tangible events like an open door or a marble placed in the garden.
I was surprised when, halfway through the book, the focus shifted to Kate’s sister, Sally, the alcoholic who has lost all interest in life. This is a very clever move as it enables us to see some of the same events from a different point of view. I grew to like Sally much more and started to question some of the things that we had been previously been told. She cut a very tragic figure who, although she had not been treated badly by her father like her sister had, was going through her own personal torture having not seen her daughter for many years.
My Sister’s Bones is quite a slow burner but towards the end, I could not put it down as we discover what everything has been leading towards. It was at this point that the book became truly shocking and we realise that we don’t always know what goes on behind closed doors. I had enjoyed the book up to this point, but the closing chapters really upped the stakes for me and made this one of my favourite books of the year so far.
With thanks to Penguin UK and Net Galley for my ARC.