The Bookworm Sez: 'The Silent Sister' has plenty to say

The Bookworm Sez: ‘The Silent Sister’ has plenty to say

Sometimes, you find the strangest things in the oddest places.

How, for example, did that thing you spent months searching for suddenly appear right in front of you, as if it were there all along? You quit hunting eons ago. You figured the darn thing was gone forever but no — there it was.

Some findings come as nice surprises. Others can make you regret the whole search. In “The Silent Sister” by Diane Chamberlain (c.2014, St. Martin’s Press, $26.99, 346 pages), a daughter wishes she’d stopped looking…

Riley MacPherson knew the task ahead wouldn’t be a pleasant one.

After her father died unexpectedly, it fell to her to clean his house and sell his assets; she was, after all, his estate’s executrix. Still, it might’ve been nice to get some help from her brother, Danny, who really only wanted to be left alone. And their older sister, Lisa…? Well, that was a sore subject.

When Riley was just two years old, Lisa disappeared, an assumed suicide. Her kayak had been found in a half-frozen river; her body had never been recovered. Riley barely remembered the teenager who drowned herself, but Danny did — and for some reason, he had nothing good to say about Lisa. Her suicide had scarred their family and Danny had a troubled childhood.

That, perhaps, was why Riley was the one going through their father’s belongings. Each item she found in his messy office stabbed at her heart. Everything held memories, until she opened his checkbook register. Why had her father been writing out $500 checks to Tom Kyle, a long-time renter? It wasn’t as though they were friends. And why, when she tried to talk to the Kyles, did Mrs. Kyle insist that Riley had been adopted?

That was an odd thing — but there was a lot odd going on. Her father, for instance, had apparently been dating an old family friend for years and Jeannie Lyons seemed to know more than she was saying — especially about Lisa.

But Riley didn’t need Jeannie. She’d discovered a few shocking family secrets all on her own: before she went missing, Lisa had been charged with murder. And there were reasons to believe that she was very much alive…

Like many people, I keep a pile of books on the table beside my bed. “The Silent Sister” was at the top of the pile, and it kept me up for quite a few nights.

I have to admit that I had The Big Secret figured out early, but author Diane Chamberlain kept me around anyhow with great characterization, an excellent amount of taut suspense, and enough fast-paced movement to hold my interest. I liked how Chamberlain told this story, moving between sisters and through time. My only complaint: the ending comes too coincidentally, too conveniently, too abruptly.

And yet, even if it does finish with a sense of mid-air suspension, I think the richness and thrill of this novel’s plot overcomes its flaws. If you’re a whodunit fan, in fact, you might find “The Silent Sister” to be perfect.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Email her at

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