Jennifer McMahon’s THE NIGHT SISTER
Release date: August 4, 2015
Review by: Daniel Boucher
From the cover:
Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.
Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds—revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.
This was a rather interesting read for me and kept me guessing along the way. In some ways that was good and bad. Good in that it kept me wanting to read more. Bad in that it sometimes felt that this novel didn’t know what it wanted to be. Did it want to be about the mental health of a family that’s may have been gas-lighted into believing there was more to them than appeared, or did it want to be a supernatural thriller, dealing with things that go bump in the night?
The truth is I didn’t know the answer to that question until the very last chapter, and then it ending up just feeling sort of forced. If this had been a mental head-case read I think it would have made for a much more resonating novel.
The Night Sister has all the makings of a killer narrative about the human condition and how we deal with traumatic events. In fact, if the last chapter didn’t exist it could have been a completely different story with perhaps a much wider appeal the likes of GONE GIRL. It’s that good.
Having said that, goddamn can Jennifer write. Timing. Pacing. Characters. All of it. Spot on and just oozing of substance. This was such a smooth and addictive read that when I’d finished I found myself scratching my head as to how I read it so fast. She wrote a night tower scene so terrifying that not since Danny Torrence finds himself locked in room 217 have I been that scared reading.
This is a good read on a cold night with a glass of wine or hot cup of coffee (or whatever your poison is). Don’t let the cover fool you, in spite of its (IMHO) slight identity crisis, there’s something here that makes it stand out from the rest, and whether you’re into the supernatural or not, it’s worthy of your time.