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I loved Karen Dionne’s previous novel, THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER, an atmospheric mystery that made it onto my favourites list in 2018, so I was very excited to read her latest one!
In THE WICKED SISTER, Dionne continues to share her knowledge and love of the Michigan UP wilderness areas with her readers. Rachel, our main protagonist, grew up in the forest, in an old hunting lodge that has been in her father’s family for generations. It made sense to her that her scientist parents should choose such a remote location, which gave them access to the wilderness they were writing about. Little does she know the real reason why her parents chose to relocate here from their suburban home, nor is she aware of the cascade of events that led to her parents’ murder-suicide when Rachel was eleven. Haunted by disjointed memories of holding the gun that killed her mother, and plagued by feelings of guilt that she may have been responsible for her parents’ death, Rachel has spent the last fifteen years in a mental institution. Now, if not cured then at least pronounced able to return into society, it’s time for Rachel to go home.
In another timeline was hear from Jenny, Rachel’s mother, telling of the events leading up to her and her husband’s death. And if you have read Dionne’s previous novel, then you will know her knack of delving into the darkest corners of the human psyche and creating a tale that is truly chilling to the core. I wished that I had read this with a buddy, because I needed counselling after this disturbing tale! If I had to sum it up in one word only, “unsettling” comes to mind. Shaken to the core is another. As layer after layer is stripped away and Rachel’s fragmented memories fall into place, the truth is a picture you will not forget in a hurry.
As much as some of the story’s aspects disturbed me, I thoroughly enjoyed the wilderness setting and the rich descriptions of all kinds of wildlife found there. THE WICKED SISTER is the kind of book where the setting acts like another character, and I was instantly transported there. As with her previous book, Dionne incorporates aspects of legends and fairy tales into her story. Maybe it’s the creation of a child’s mind surviving trauma that Rachel thinks she is able to communicate with animals, or maybe it’s just her survival instinct, but it has saved her life more than once. Even though this element may seem somewhat whimsical, it gave me a sense of hope of how a young child may cope in extreme psychological distress.
All in all, THE WICKED SISTER was a dark and unsettling psychological thriller that drew me in very quickly and had me glued to the pages for hours. I especially enjoyed the remote wilderness setting and Dionne’s rich descriptions of the dense forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, which made for armchair travel of the best kind. Even though some aspects of the plot – especially the ending – seemed slightly farfetched, this did not distract from my overall feeling of quiet discomfort that I really appreciate in a mystery. I look forward to Dionne’s next book, and hope she will take us back to the forest she loves and knows so well.
I LOVED AND STILL love “The Marsh King’s Daughter”; and it has been one of my favorite books in a long time. This book, from the very beginning, sets up the external/internal conflict that is found in many great books, with it’s “flashbacks” as the reader realizes, through these flashbacks, what happened the day Rachel’s parents died. Rachel’s parents made the same mistakes that any loving parent might do when faces with a psychopathic child - the denial, the giving into manipulation, etc. - and these mistakes ultimately lead to not only their deaths, but Rachel being held in a mental facility for 10 years, believing SHE was the one who killed her parents. When Rachel sees an original police report, she realizes that she could not have killed her parents, and this sets into place a struggle between Rachel and her sister, Diane, literally AND figuratively, as Rachel comes to terms with memories long forgotten and previously suppressed. The question become WILL she find and figure out a solution before it is too late? I Gave the book a 5, because, compared to most books, It easily qualifieS. However, I will say that this book is a little bit of a disappointment in comparison to “The Marsh King’s Daughter” with its riveting portrayal of a psychopath escaping from jail, looking for his daughter and his “grandchildren”, and how the protagonist knew what was coming for her is a better book; but this book certainly delivers action and adventure. I only wished that we had as much insight into the “killer’s head / thoughts as was shown in her first book. BUT THIS IS AN AMAZING, with an amazing ending. You will never regret buying this book!
AUG 2020 : 5 STARS. You have been cut-off from society for 15 years, shut away in a mental hospital in self-imposed exile as punishment for the terrible thing you did when you were a child. What if you didn't accidentally shoot and kill your mother, then whoever did it is still out there waiting for you.
Ms. Dionne's first book, The Marsh King's Daughter, received 5 stars from me; it was recommended to me by a friend, ilunpink who said it was her best book of 2018. I would never have looked at this author if it wasn't for her recommendation. What a journey THIS book is! Love the facts about the woods and animals therein. Ms. Dionne's stories envelop you like a warm blanket in winter. The suspense never lets up. All her characters are soooo developed you
This book is virtually the same as Marsh King's Daughter. The characters are similar: Diana = Jacob; Rachel= Helena; Jenny = Helena's mom; Trevor = the Hunter. Trevor and Helena's husband were both lied to and kept in the dark by their wives and yet were somewhat pushovers. The plot is the same psychopathic murderers and their victims. Diana and Jacob are abusers and murders - and their behavior is rationalized by their victims (that is often a characteristic of being a victim so for part of the story that is "normal") - but once Rachel and Helena were free from the control of Diana and Jacob - they continued to be under their spells - some excellent therapy could have helped. Trevor and the Hunter were rescuers or deuteragonist; Helena had imaginary friends to talk to and to help her while Rachel had incests and animals (dead and alive) to talk to and help her. Jenny and Helena's mother continued to allow their children to be subjected to abuse and at risk of being murdered. In Helena's mother's case - she had far less control - but Jenny really didn't act on behalf of Rachel or her unborn son. Seriously - she let Diana continue to murder (2 more times - and almost a third) after she suspected she drowns the toddler. Would a reasonable person wait that long with that much evidence? The psychiatrists were not up to par in that the advice given was too little too late - and Diana's psych MD had a duty to call the police if there was a reasonable concern about the safety of others. And really - giving a murder knives? for taxidermy! Rachel and Helena were under the control of abusers - their parents did not protect them. Both were able to perform almost miraculous physical feats, in the end, to save themselves (these are both somewhat unrealistic), both underestimated their own knowledge about their abuser - both overestimated their own abilities and understandings. The endings of both books left me somewhat dismayed - they both seemed like a neat way to wrap things up without being 100% realistic. This made these stories seem more like supernatural fairy tails instead of realistic novels (MKD more so than WS). The characters Jenny, Rachel, and Helena were too laissez-faire when it came to followup - Jeanny let Diana control the household; Jenny let her sister control things even though she disagreed; Rachel is not acting on the other murder convictions for Diana, and Helena moved into her Father's old house, let her daughters play outside, etc; A good therapist could have helped Rachel, Helena and Jenny deal with things differently - especially for Jenny to project Rachel and Rachel to take action and protect her child, and Helena to protect herself and her family.
This book has some holes in the logic, as does Marsh King's Daughter - but far less than MKD. If you are deciding which to read - this book is better, more believable (with some stretches), and more realistic (with holes). The author does leave herself open for another book - Diana is only in prison for 10 years. She'll be back. Not sure if I will.
I enjoyed her first book so much I was almost afraid to read the Wicked Sister. Early on I was getting mixed up trying to keep the characters straight but realize that was because the writer wanted it that way. Her protagonist was struggling mentally so the reader should too. I enjoyed it very much, it had great twists and turns. I grew up in Newberry so that helped also.
I loved the marsh kings daughter and when I saw this title I couldn't wait to read it. This one was just as suspenseful and I could not put it down. It really shows the struggle these parents have to go through raising a child who is sick and twisted and as they struggle to decide do they give up on one daughter to save another.
This white knuckle book will leave you breathless, on the edge of your seat, and the ending will have you shaking your head in awe!! If you love twisted sisterly love and being sucked in, then this book is for you!