Release Date: August 4th, 2015
Synopsis: Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel’s past, something that ruined their friendship forever.
Now adults, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Sylvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock’s next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds–revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during it’s 1950s heydey. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.
“When darkness comes knocking on your door,
you’ll think you’ve seen his face before.
When he comes creeping up your stairs,
you’ll know him from your dark nightmares.
If you hold up a mirror, you shall see
that he is you and you are he.”
And so begins Jennifer McMahon’s new paranormal thriller, which like her previous novels focuses on familial relationships. In Night Sister she successfully explores the lives of two generations during three different time periods: 2013, 1989, and 1955. What ties everything together is the Tower Motel in the small town of London, Vermont. Relating the events through alternating third person perspectives, it is only at the end that you discover the horrifying truth behind it all.
Having a story unfold over three different time periods could leave a reader completely lost, especially when you add in the different voices of the characters, but McMahon uses these devices to reel you in. I thought at the very least I’d have a favorite timeline/narrative, but I didn’t because they all wind up being essential. I enjoyed reading about Rose and Sylvie during the 1950s when the Tower Motel was at the height of it’s popularity. Sylvie’s adoring letters to Alfred Hitchcock just adds to the already mesmerizing story. Equally fun is reading about Margot, Piper, and Amy in 1989, as they explore the now decrepit Tower and the mystery behind Sylvie’s disappearance. And finally, reading about Margot and Piper’s desperate attempts to discover if their childhood friend Amy could have really committed the horrific act she’s accused of, and if it could be related to the secret they’ve kept for the past fourteen years, is just fascinating.
I also enjoyed the comparisons of the relationships of Margot & Piper, and Rose & Sylvie. This is truly where McMahon exels, and I honestly thought the dichotomy between them was as interesting as the mysteries and supernatural events that form the basis of the book.
There are just so many enjoyable things in this, especially if you’re a mystery fan. In addition to Sylvie’s letters to Hitchcock, there are references to a few of his movies including Vertigo, Marnie, Rear Window, and of course, Psycho. While there’s plenty of creepy moments, this isn’t a book that features a lot of blood and gore. Instead, the tension slowly builds until the chilling and bittersweet ending. There were a few eye-rolling moments when I’d find myself mentally scolding someone for falling into a stereotypical horror movie cliche, but overall these are relatable characters who play well off each other. After finishing this I can’t believe I’ve never read any of the author’s previous books. I’m going to have to make more room on my bookshelf!