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on 7 May 2017
This is a brooding, creepy psychological thriller from 'Holland's Queen of Crime'. It's centred on identical twin sisters who are completely different people: Lydia’s an opinionated teacher with a husband, daughter, and relatively settled life. Elise is a photographer: quieter, darker, and troubled.

The different perspectives each sister has on their relationship and the people and world around them provides a fascinating thread throughout the novel; each has her own distinct voice. The novel starts sharply, with Lydia threatened by a Muslim student with a knife. She has a lot of immigrant families and children at her school, and has for her own personal reasons wanted to continue teaching there despite her husband trying to get her to leave and join him at his successful software business.

This is an unusual book, structurally, but I won't go into that too much in case of giving away spoilers. It took me a little while to adjust to Van Der Vlugt's style (or perhaps more accurately, the style of her translator), but once I settled into it I found SHADOW SISTER to be an atmospheric, creepy thriller. I felt a little detached from it, not fully caught up and engaged, but that may have been because it has been translated from another language, or that us English-speaking readers aren't as used to a different, Continental Europe style of crime storytelling.

I enjoyed the way that Van Der Vlugt played with our perceptions and early assumptions, instigating cracks in what we thought about each of the sisters as we learn more. Perhaps Lydia wasn't so perfect after all, and Elisa isn't such of a mess? It's a fascinating book that has a lot of good things in it, but never fully clicked for me enough to elevate it firmly into the four-star-plus level.

Still, a good read, and a great pick for those looking to try crime fiction from a variety of different countries, not just that translated from Scandinavian languages.
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on 14 January 2011
Despite centring around a murder, this fantastic page-turner by Dutch author Simone van der Vlugt is more of a psychological thriller than a traditional murder mystery or detective tale.

It focuses on the relationship between twin sisters Lydia and Elisa, and the people that surround them. Written in the first person, shifting perspectives between the two sisters, it's soon apparent how different they are, despite being identical twins. Lydia is a glamorous, career-minded teacher, mother and wife who works at a challenging school in Rotterdam, while Elisa is a professional photographer with a less polished appearance and a less successful track record when it comes to men.

It's Lydia, however, who runs into trouble when Bilal, one of her tough, male students, threatens her with a knife. When she is murdered soon afterwards, Bilal is the obvious suspect, but with sister Elisa's narrative the reader is taken on an exciting journey to discover if he was really the culprit. I gulped down this book in just a few evenings, and really enjoyed it. Highly recommended.
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on 17 January 2011
This is the Dutch author's second novel to be translated into English,
and is an intelligent,captivating,topical psychological thriller that
fully confirms her initial promise.
Lydia is a busy teacher in a difficult school in Rotterdam with many
immigrants.When she is threatened with a knife by one of her pupils,
and subsequently stalked,the certainties in her life begin to dissolve,
as she fears for her safety.
The tale is narrated alternatively by Lydia and her twin sister,Elisa,
and the fact that the narration alternates between the present and the
past,skillfully serves to heighten the tension.
Shadow Sister is a clever highly readable thriller by a writer at one
with her craft.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 31 January 2011
This is a very cleverly written book, I love the way the story was told by alternating twin sisters, one in the present, one in the past. Lydia is a teacher with a seemingly perfect life, handsome successful husband, loves her job, beautiful daughter. Her twin Elisa is a photographer who doesn't seem to know where she's going in life, or who with.
At the beginning of the book Lydia is threatened by one of her pupils with a knife, soon afterwards she is murdered. (This isn't a spoiler, we discover this early on in the book when we shift to Elisa's perspective, as she looks back upon what has happened to her sister).
The story flits between the two, Lydia tells of events leading up to the murder, Elisa focuses on what happens after it.
It is a very compelling book, I was soon engrossed and really enjoyed it although after such a clever build up of suspense I did think the ending was just a little bit of a let down. However I would still recommend, and would've given 5 stars had the ending matched up to the rest of the book.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 May 2012
This book was thrilling to read and I could not put it down. The chapters are fairly short and the story itself flits between the viewpoints of two identical tiwn sisters in Rotterdam. One, Lydia is a teacher in a tough multicultural school, while the other, Elisa, is a professional photographer. Both are very different in personality. One of the sisters is murdered fairly early on in the story and we read about events leading upto the murder from the victim's point of view, and then from her sister's point of view we see the effects of the murder on acquantances and friends.
The translation seems fine, and I was genuinely hooked to the very end. The tough school could easily be set in any UK large city as well. You certainly get a very powerful impression of how it must be to work there.
I am hoping that Simone van der Vlugt's other novels are awaiting a translation into English for the UK market as this really was excellent!
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VINE VOICEon 27 February 2011
Although I am not a fan of novels about twins, as the opportunity for cliche is often too much for the author, SHADOW SISTER (originally published in Dutch in 2005) is a creepy little tale that I can highly recommend. It is a very worthy successor to the author's earlier THE REUNION, though the two books are independent.
SHADOW SISTER opens with Lydia describing to the reader her day as a teacher in a Rotterdam multidenominational state school - she's dealing with teenage students from a range of cultures and is threatened with a knife by one of them, Bilal. Shocked, she does not know whether to report the incident to the police - the headmaster Jan is keen for her to keep the information to herself to protect the school's reputation, saying he'll exclude the boy. Lydia reflects on how hard she works to communicate with her students, seeing them outside school and helping them with their various family as well as educational problems. She is from a rich family, so does not have to work, but feels passionate about her teaching role and in particular helping people from other cultures who suffer discrimination in Dutch society. Lydia's husband Raoul is less keen on her job: he'd prefer her to stay at home to look after their six-year-old daughter Valerie, perhaps taking a part-time position at the software company he owns. A company, it soon transpires, that exists due to Lydia's investment in it.
After a few chapters setting the scene of Lydia's life and anxiety about the possibility that Bilal is stalking her, the voice of the narrator shifts to Elisa, Lydia's twin sister. Elisa is far less extrovert than Lydia - she runs a photography studio and does not bother spending money on clothes or trying to look fashionable. The two sisters are very close, however, always going on holiday together. We learn a bit more about Elisa's life and about her two friends, Sylvie and Tom, whom Lydia does not like much.
After a while, we realize, shockingly, that one of the young women has been killed. Yet the rest of the novel continues to alternate the narration between them, so we learn of events leading up to the death as well as of the aftermath (in the words of the survivor), to chilling effect. Although at first it seems as if there is only one obvious suspect for the perpetrator, as the book progresses we realize that neither Lydia nor Elisa is entirely as they seem, particularly when we glimpse either of them through the eyes of the other characters. There is a lot more going on under the surface than the reader is being told, and the author does not put a foot wrong in the difficult task of making the narrators seem honest while at the same time conveying more than they are willing to admit to themselves or to us. More suspects emerge from the woodwork as the reader gradually becomes privy to the real story of what is going on in the women's lives and that of their friends and families. The novel is creepy, effective and highly readable, though I found the last couple of chapters disappointing and hastily contrived.
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Lydia is one of a twin; the one who appears to have it all, married with one young daughter Valerie she teaches in a multi-cultural school in Rotterdam. One day Lydia is threatened by a muslim student and soon after is murdered. The story is full of twists and turns with chapters about Lydia in the days following the incident at the school, one she doesn't report to keep the school out of the headlines, and Elisa her twin narrating in the days following her murder.

The twin element was well handled and their relationship revealed bit by bit over the course of the book. The setting is in Rotterdam but this could equally well have been set in England, the translation has been expertly handled. Many relationships are important in this story and it is these that hold the key to the final revelation.

This is ideal holiday reading, I will be ordering The Reunion by the same author.
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on 13 July 2011
What a wonderfully written story.Told from the perspective of twin sisters it was a very cleverly crafted thriller.Full of suspense and twists and turns i would have given it 5 stars if the ending had been just a tad better.well worth a read.
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on 3 September 2012
Identical twins, one single and the other married with a child and a job she loves. The novel is translated from the Dutch original, and the translator seems to have done a good job. It's an interesting story, nicely written but it's not pacey and although it starts with an impressive bang, it slows right down after that and I didn't find it very engaging.

The story itself is believable - I could imagine it happening, which is more than can be said for a lot of psychological thrillers. However, the story was hampered by the twin main characters who are terminally dull and one is downright annoying. The other characters aren't much better, which is a shame as more likeable characters might have lifted it. The narrative switches between the twins, which is fine, as they were fairly interchangeable but it was slightly annoying the way it kept jumping back in time. I've liked this approach in other novels but in this one, it didn't always serve much of a purpose and at times it disrupted the flow of the story by going back in time to tell us minor points that weren't really adding anything at that stage. So some of it would have been better in a more chronological order and I wished the author would get to the point.

If you like literary or psychological thrillers that are grounded in reality, give it a whirl but if you prefer your thrillers to be, well, thrilling, this isn't the book for you. It's more of a quiet psycho-drama about family dynamics with a murder tacked on.
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VINE VOICEon 11 April 2013
A new name for me and one who has, in this book, provided an absorbing psychological whodunnit. I wouldn't want to say this is a thriller but it certainly makes you want to reach the ending.

A murder is committed, a local, angry young man is suspected but then, as the story unfolds, mainly through the eyes of the remaining twin, further suspects are brought into the picture.

The author manages to give us enough food for thought to consider several possible murderers and thankfully, enough of a story to hold the reader.

The translation is excellent, allowing us to believe these characters are from our own local township. Further, it does enable you to read this book at one sitting if so inclined (no pun intended). I believe there is another book, 'Reunion' which has been translated into English so I'll give that a try, too. Whether there are any more is difficult to tell. Her website, though charming, is not easy to trawl in English. This is a shame, as I feel sure her style of compelling storytelling, dealing with close community friendships (and otherwise), would appeal to many readers in the UK. She would fit nicely into a small group of writers who can tell a story, grip the reader and bring the ending to a successful close when the reader says, "ah, yes, I thought it was him/her" when the reader didn't have a clue!

Maybe somebody has more info about this delightful author?
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