Reviewed by Gerard Healy
This is a crime /mystery story involving three siblings- Ryan , the older brother and sisters Gina and Cassie and is set mainly in present-day London. There are however, flashbacks to the characters’ childhood years because of the death of Cassie, which was ruled an accident at the time. This tragic event has cast a long shadow over the family and influences the storyline considerably.
Gina has worked as a journalist but is now an assistant at a TV channel. She is ambitious to be a news presenter but is being blocked by her demanding boss. In her private life she has moved back into the family home with Ryan, after a rift of many years and their parents’ emigration to America. She has a boyfriend Julian, who is an illusionist keen to make a name for himself professionally.
The story really takes off when Gina comes across a dead woman in a dark laneway one night on her way home from work. After phoning the authorities, Gina decides to live stream a news report of the suspected murder via her TV channel’s social media site. This unleashes a storm of controversy over Gina’s head with critics angry at her apparent lack of respect for the victim.
Meanwhile, we’re introduced to the detectives running the case, Adam Adebayo and his female colleague Christine. They are skeptical of Gina’s involvement but find enough evidence to rule her out as a suspect.
One of the problems with this story is that just two weeks later, again after work and again walking home alone, Gina finds another murdered woman in a deserted location.
The chances of this happening in a major city must be astronomically unlikely.
Another unlikely twist is that senior police do not get involved in working out Gina’s connections to the two incidents. This is left to the relatively junior pair, Adam and Christine. Adam’s gullibility is yet another straw on the back of an overloaded camel.
One other hurdle for a reader to overcome is the complexity of the wicked scheme that the evil-doers set up. While it’s novel in conception, it seems barely feasible in reality. Near the end, the writer teases us with a possible re-run of this scheme in a different locality.
The structure of the novel includes a back-and-forth between events in the distant past and the present. The writer manages this transition well with the significance of past events gradually informing us of the motivations and behaviours of the main players.
Who is guilty of what in the past is an ongoing thread of the narrative and impacts the present in a logical way. The characters are naturally affected by their sister’s untimely death and carry some psychological scars into adulthood. This sets them up for retribution and being taken advantage of.
I liked the rounding out of some minor characters such as the TV boss, Jacquline. Her cynical use of Gina for media interviews to boost the channel’s ratings was an insight into the dog-eat-dog world of on-line news. The writer’s familiarity with this hectic world was plain. She also depicted well the strained relationship between police and media, especially when the words ‘Serial Killer’ are bandied about.
The depiction of the police detectives was patchy; Adam is a nice guy who seems out of his depth at times while Christine is the more straight-forward regular cop. Their relationship endues the usual ups and downs of working in a stressful arena, until Adam has nagging doubts about the alleged killer.
Overall an engaging read that struggled sometimes under some improbable events.
Elle Croft was born in South Africa, grew up in Australia and moved to the UK in 2010 after travelling around the world with her husband. She works as a freelance social media specialist and also blogs about travel, food and life in London. Her debut novel ‘The Guilty Wife’ was published in 2017.
The Other Sister
By Elle Croft