SISTER by Rosamund Lupton
Beatrice returns to England to help search for her missing sister, Tess. When Tess’s body is found in a London park, and the death is ruled a suicide, Bee is determined (to the point of obsession) to prove Tess was murdered and to find the killer. Complex characters, a fascinating exploration of family dynamics, and sharp writing make this debut a stand out. Lupton’s seamless tense switches slowly build suspense throughout. One criticism: I knew “who dunnit” almost from the moment the character appeared on the page. While this bruised the integrity of the mystery and flattened the end twist, SISTER worked beautifully as a psychological thriller.
SKELETONS AT THE FEAST by Chris Bohjalian
Near the end of WWII, a group of refugees flee the advancing Russian Army, moving toward the safety of the British/American lines. Included in the group: a pro-Nazi Prussian family of aristocrats, a Scottish POW, a young German Jew who escaped a train bound for Auschwitz and is now disguised as a Wehrmacht officer, and in a parallel narrative, a group of Jewish women on a death march west. Bohjalian’s powerful writing captures this poignant moment in history with all its privations, fears, hopes, and bonds—fraternal, romantic, and familial. Written from multiple POVs, SKELETONS AT THE FEAST provides a close-up look at the war from divergent perspectives, but two motifs remain constant. War benefits no one, and labels—Nazi, Jew, Scot, aristocrat—don’t define who or what is moral.