Top positive review
Good translated psychological thriller
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.