On The Shelf: ‘Blood Sisters’ by Jane Corry

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Credit: Pamela Dorman Books

‘Sup readers? Welcome to this week’s On The Shelf column, Fanfest’s book review column. Now, usually I give you a spiel about how this column is aimed at helping you decide which new literature deserves a spot on your shelf, which should remain relegated to your ereader, and which would be best skipped altogether. But today the intro’s going to be a little different: On The Shelf will be turning into a biweekly column, rather than a weekly one, for the time being. You’ll still get a couple of weeks of bookish goodness a month, and a couple of weeks is better than none, right?

Now that that’s settled, this week’s pick was Blood Sisters by journalist Jane Corry, who debuted in 2016 with thriller My Husband’s Wife. Her second foray into the genre, Blood Sisters, is one of those thrillers that works better if you don’t know a ton about it before you dive in. The UK edition of the book has a simple, chilling summation on the front: Three little girls. One good. One bad. One dead.

I think that’s really all you need to know, but in case that’s not enough, here’s the synopsis on the dust jacket of the US edition:

Three little girls set off to school one sunny morning. Within an hour, one of them is dead. 

Fifteen years later, Kitty can’t speak and has no memory of the accident that’s to blame. She lives in an institution, unlikely ever to leave. But that doesn’t keep her from being frightened when she encounters an eerily familiar face. 

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. She’s struggling to make ends meet and to forget the past. When a teaching job at a prison opens up, she takes it, despite her fears. Maybe this is her chance to set things right. Then she starts to receive alarming notes; next, her classroom erupts in violence.

Meanwhile, someone is watching both Kitty and Alison. Someone who never forgot what happened that day. Someone who wants revenge. And only another life will do. . .

I tend to have a rule with books, because I have an overflow of them. If I’m not hooked by the 50-page mark, it gets donated. The first chapter was pretty decent, but the second chapter had me unapologetically invested in this novel, its events, and its characters. As soon as I hit the third chapter, I paused, opened my Amazon app, and ordered a hard copy for my own shelf.

Blood Sisters is a dual-perspective novel, bouncing between Alison, a skittish, nearly-starving artist and Kitty, a woman who knows exactly what she wants to say and how she wants to say it— but the nature of her brain damage is such that it all comes out as incoherent gibberish. Both characters are compelling— although Kitty is, undeniably, the more compelling voice. I usually don’t have patience for unreliable narrators, but this was a huge exception— and Corry does a good job building up the characters around them as well. She exercises a deft touch when it comes to exploring the nuances of grief, the complexity of emotions, and the uphill struggle when life deals you a crap hand. The overarching plot, the mystery within, was just a cherry on top of that character development sundae.

Blood Sisters clops along at a reasonable pace— it’s neither too fast or too slow, taking its time to get where it’s going without making excessively long pit stops—this is another plus, there’s nothing worse than a mystery that drags on and on, past the point of no return.

I would absolutely recommend Blood Sisters for your shelf. If you want to check it out, click here.