Sixteen years ago, Sylvie’s sister Persephone never came home. Out too late with the boyfriend she was forbidden to see, Persephone was missing for three days before her body was found—and years later, her murder remains unsolved.
In the present day, Sylvie returns home to care for her estranged mother, Annie, as she undergoes treatment for cancer. Prone to unexplained “Dark Days” even before Persephone’s death, Annie’s once-close bond with Sylvie dissolved in the weeks after their loss, making for an uncomfortable reunion all these years later. Worse, Persephone’s former boyfriend, Ben, is now a nurse at the cancer center where Annie is being treated. Sylvie’s always believed Ben was responsible for the murder—but she carries her own guilt about that night, guilt that traps her in the past while the world goes on around her.
As she navigates the complicated relationship with her mother, Sylvie begins to uncover the secrets that fill their house—and what really happened the night Persephone died. As it turns out, the truth really will set you free, once you can bear to look at it.
The Winter Sister is a mesmerizing portrayal of the complex bond between sisters, between mothers and daughters alike, and forces us to ask ourselves—how well do we really know the people we love most?
The plot of The Winter Sister is definitely something that has been done time and time again: child leaves home after a traumatic event, only to have to return years later and miraculously solves a years old crime. Even though this is a fairly standard trope, it managed to stay interesting throughout.
That being said, the twists weren’t really all that surprising and I didn’t really feel connected to any of the characters. When something would happen my reaction was usually along the lines of “okay, lets move on”. It was definitely a fast read at just around 300 pages and it flew by, but there was just something…off? It wasn’t scary or thrilling, and while it was interesting figuring out who the murderer was, the way it was discovered was just too convenient and there really wasn’t any build up to the moment.
I absolutely HATED the main character Sylvie. She was so wishy washy with her beliefs and in her life in general. We would start a page with her being so convinced that the killer was one person, only to have her screaming accusations at a completely different character and back again, all in one chapter! I got the feeling that she is supposed to be an unlikable character, but there wasn’t really anything that you knew about her to make her unlikable. Her character just wasn’t fleshed out enough to care about her or her motivations.
The focus of this book felt like it was more about the characters and their relationships with each other than it was about Persephone’s murder, which was a bummer since that was what I was really excited for with this book! The mystery of who the murderer was honestly should’ve been solved by the police, because once you learn one key point, it would’ve lead the police right to the guilty party. And even the identity of the murderer wasn’t something that was shocking, it literally was someone who would be a main focal point in any investigation. Then the ending on whether or not the murderer gets away with it was never resolved, it was left kinda open ended. We never see a trial or jail time, but we never see them go free either.
Overall, I don’t think that this was a horrible book, but it wasn’t great either. And it’s also a debut novel so I’m sure that the author will improve with her next books!
**I also want to mention that there is self harm and thoughts of self harm in this book (along with of course murder, no gruesome details though) so if that’s something you are not okay with, just be warned!