Bookmarks Issue: 
54-Sept-Oct-2011
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A-SisterSister, published to tremendous critical and popular acclaim in England in 2010, is veteran screenwriter Rosamund Lupton's debut novel.

The Story: Beatrice, an unremarkable corporate minion newly transplanted to New York, and Tess, a wild and carefree London art student, are as different--but seemingly as close--as sisters can be, bonded by two childhood traumas: the death of their young brother from cystic fibrosis and their abrupt abandonment by their father shortly thereafter. When Tess is found dead in a public bathroom, wrists slashed, the police rule the death a suicide, but Beatrice insists that Tess wouldn't take her own life. Determined to track down her killer, Beatrice moves into Tess's apartment and retraces her last steps, but her amateur sleuthing puts her in danger, and the answers she uncovers could haunt her forever.
Crown. 336 pages. $24. ISBN: 9780307716514

Boston Globe 4 of 5 Stars
"This fast-paced, absurdly entertaining novel, Lupton's first, unfolds in the form of a long letter from Beatrice to her adored (if sometimes patronized) younger sister. Along with a juicy mystery, it resounds with an authentic sense of sisterly love and loyalty." Kate Tuttle

Guardian (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Lupton's debut is an exceptionally confident domestic gothic thriller with a mosaic-like, non-linear structure. ... Indeed, Sister is so ably done, so perceptive about grief and guilt and self-delusion, that when the clichés of the genre do obtrude in the form of overwrought prose--‘Facts of exploding shrapnel were ripping our relationship apart'--it's a bit of a shock." John O'Connell

Houston Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"The narrative process is so intimate and delicate, it doesn't serve the book to reveal any more of the many, many twists to the story of Tess's life and putative suicide. Suffice to say that the stop-and-start associative movement of Bea's voice is, as a British review wrote, ‘utterly compelling.' And the ending, however gently foreshadowed, is a stunner." P. G. Koch

Independent (UK) 4 of 5 Stars
"Lupton's crisp insights into grief and familial guilt are married to a confidently executed plot. Free from the genre's more mawkish excesses, Lupton's persuasive narrative voice is what keeps this classy debut on track." Emma Hagestadt

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"With Sister, Lupton, who has a long history as a scriptwriter, enters the highly charged ring where the best psychological detective writers spar, her hands raised in a victory clench. She encircles her story with electrified ropes: new developments continually jolt her readers, which doesn't stop them from eagerly--and a little sadistically--awaiting the impact of the next blow. ... Both tear-jerking and spine-tingling, Sister provides an adrenaline rush that could cause a chill on the sunniest afternoon--which, perhaps, the friendly company of a sister or two (or, in a pinch, a brother) might help to dispel." Liesl Schillinger

Oprah Magazine 4 of 5 Stars
"Beatrice's single-minded search for a killer no one else believes exists drives Rosamund Lupton's gripping epistolary crime novel, Sister. ... Lupton weaves in multiple subplots ... and several potential killers, ensuring that readers become as worried as Beatrice, and almost as obsessed." Gale Walden

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Lupton shrewdly and compassionately peels back the story's rich layers, slowly uncovering details of Tess' complex life, examining tangled mother-daughter connections, and providing a genuinely wicked sting at the end. But the key to Sister is [Bea's] voice: clear, strong, single-minded, and not to be denied." Adam Woog

Critical Summary

Lupton's alternately heartrending and spine-chilling debut takes the form of a long letter that gradually reveals the aftermath of Tess's death, and the critics unanimously declared this epistolary device a success. Lupton cunningly reveals just enough information to keep the plot racing along while the tension mounts. Compared to celebrated crime novelists Kate Atkinson, Ruth Rendell, and Patricia Highsmith, Lupton weaves suspense from her characters' personalities and motivations as well as from the story line and movingly renders Beatrice and Tess's complex relationship without any trace of sappiness. In fact, noted critics, Lupton manages to sidestep the majority of missteps made by novice writers. "A taut, hold-your-breath-and-your-handkerchief thriller" (New York Times Book Review), Sister should satisfy the most cynical of crime fiction fans.