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Rosamund Lupton's "Sister' is compelling thriller

Rosamund Lupton's "Sister' is compelling thriller

"Sister" (Crown), by Rosamund Lupton

June 11th, 2011 by MICHELLE WIENER, For The Associated Press in News

Beatrice Hemming's flighty younger sister, Tess, first goes missing and is then found dead in an abandoned lavatory in London's Hyde Park. The police rule her death a suicide, but Beatrice is convinced that Tess has been murdered.

She moves into Tess' flat and starts tracing her sister's last steps to find her killer, uncovering secret after secret about the woman she thought she was closer to than anyone.

Rosamund Lupton's debut - part literary fiction, part crime novel - received rave reviews upon its release in the U.K. last fall, and "Sister" will no doubt receive a similar reception in the U.S. It's intensely written both in terms of its suspense and its study, however one-sided, of the bonds of sisterhood.

The novel is written as a letter from Beatrice to her sister, and while this structure could be written off as a mere device, it works exceptionally well. We come to know Beatrice as rigidly methodical and organized whose love for her sister is transcendent. It makes sense that she would attempt to collect her thoughts and process everything that happened by addressing it all to her dead sister.

Nested within Beatrice's letter to Tess is her lengthy deposition to a prosecuting attorney detailing her amateur investigation of Tess' death and the numerous suspects she encounters - the art teacher with whom Tess was having an affair, the fellow student with a perverse obsession with her - and the way her own fixation on Tess concerns her family, who thinks she's in severe denial. The air of legal testimony that Beatrice's story takes on allows the climactic plot twist to sneak in under the radar. It is a truly shocking moment, and one that is sure to prompt much heated discussion among readers.