Title: Sister Dear by Laura McNeill
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 396 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start. But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?
Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.
But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.
As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.
Sister Dear by Laura McNeill is an intriguing whodunit that has plenty of unexpected twists and turns.
Granted an early release after serving ten years for voluntary manslaughter of high school football coach Boyd Thomas, Allie Marshall is looking forward to two things: clearing her name and most important, getting to know her now fifteen year old daughter, Caroline. Neither task is easily accomplished nor is settling back into life in her small hometown but Allie bides her time while waiting for things to settle down. Hoping her younger sister, Emma, who has been caring for Caroline, will help smooth the way for the much anticipated reunion, Allie is confused by her sister’s sudden withdrawal and overall lack of support. When she begins looking into Boyd’s murder, she runs into interference from Sheriff Lee Gaines who warns her to leave the past alone. Convinced Sheriff Gaines is somehow involved in Thomas’s murder, Allie keeps searching for answers, but are some secrets better left buried?
Despite the unplanned pregnancy that slightly derailed her plans, when Allie is arrested for Thomas’s murder, she finally has her life in order. She has just been accepted to medical school, she is engaged to be married and five year old Caroline is thriving. However, Allie is greatly troubled by some of the changes in some of the high school football players’ behavior and her recent letter in the newspaper angered many of town’s residents. With the football team standing a good chance of winning the championship, no one wants to hear anything negative about the coach who turned the team around. Lacking irrefutable proof about her suspicions, Allie is accelerating her plans to leave town when she stumbles onto Boyd immediately after he is attacked and despite her assertions of innocence, she is quickly arrested, tried and convicted of his murder. Her time in prison does not break her and now older, wiser and more patient, Allie is more than ready to reclaim her life and her daughter but she has no intention of giving up on her plans to find the information that will exonerate her.
Emma is the only person who stood by Allie once she began serving her sentence. She willingly became her niece’s guardian and she is extremely protective of Caroline. While Emma initially appears concerned and supportive of Allie, it quickly becomes apparent that she will go to any lengths to maintain the life she has made for herself in Allie’s absence. She is quite manipulative, calculating and vindictive as she plots and schemes to hold onto Caroline’s affections. Emma’s motives for undermining Caroline and Allie’s relationship quickly become suspect as she reminisces about the months leading up to Boyd’s death.
Sheriff Gaines is nearing retirement and he has no intention of letting anything mar his spotless career. He is less than enthusiastic about Allie’s return and he makes no effort to hide his animosity towards her. Allie has never given up her theory that he was somehow involved in Boyd’s death and when Gaines pays her visit after her release, she grows more certain he is hiding something. Determined to uncover the truth, Allie ignores his threats and keeps digging for the truth but she is unprepared for the shocking secrets she is about to unearth.
Written from multiple points of view, Sister Dear by Laura McNeill is an interesting mystery that, while impossible to put down, falls a bit flat due to the rather obvious suspect, unsympathetic characters and a somewhat implausible plot. Despite these issues, the storyline is engaging and while the killer’s identity is very easy to predict, the motive for the crime remains unclear until the novel’s dramatic conclusion.