Sisters and Lies | A twisty domestic thriller by Bernice Barrington

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Bernice Barrington is a writer and journalist based in Ireland. Sisters and Lies is her debut novel.

I enjoy domestic thrillers so when Penguin Ireland gave me an advance review copy of Bernice Barrington’s debut novel, Sisters and Lies, I was excited to get stuck in.

Sisters and Lies is a twisty domestic thriller about two Irish sisters — one a successful author and the other a struggling business journalist. Each has a troubled past due, in part, to the sudden disappearance of their father while they were still children — an event with lasting consequences for the sisters’ adult relationships.

The story begins when successful author Rachel Power has just returned to Ireland from a book tour.  Rachel gets a life-changing phone call telling her that her sister, Evie,  is in a coma in a London hospital.

Evie has crashed a luxury car and it’s uncertain if, or when, she’ll wake up. With no other family to call on since their mother died, Rachel is Evie’s next of kin. She flies to London and discovers that no one else was involved in the accident and Evie is the only casualty.

Could suicide have been Evie’s motive? The police don’t seem to suspect foul play but Rachel is not so sure. For one thing, Evie doesn’t have a car so whose car was it and why was Evie driving?

Before long, Rachel finds questions about Evie’s life mounting up and her suspicions grow. For one thing, there’s a man living in Evie’s flat who claims to be her boyfriend. But who is the handsome Donnagh Flood and why has Rachel never heard of him?

The more Rachel discovers about Evie’s life, the more she fears the crash was not  an accident. As the days go by and Evie remains unconscious, Rachel begins to question how well she really knew her sister.

Meanwhile Evie although comatose is aware of Rachel’s presence in the hospital but unable to communicate. Mentally, Evie tries to piece together the events that led to the crash.

Into the mix of Sisters and Lies Bernice Barrington adds Rachel’s estranged husband, Jacob, and Evie’s past and current boyfriends, Artie and Donnagh. Barrington draws her characters well — they are believable and rounded and their complicated relationships make for an interesting story line in this twisty domestic mystery thriller. Sisters and Lies by Bernice Barrington is published by Penguin.


Bishop’s Delight |Patrick McGinley delivers dark humour

Bishop’s Delight by Patrick McGinley is a delightful and deceptively easy read. On the surface it’s the story of a missing Taoiseach and two journalists determined to find out what happened to him.

In this case, the Taoiseach is Jim Maguire — a foundling child adopted by a political family who grows up to become the Irish prime minister. Maguire is a francophile. His heroes include General de Gaulle and Montaigne, the French philosopher, statesman and author renowned for his ability to blend intellectual knowledge and personal storytelling. An outsider, a diarist, and a man with complicated private life, Maguire’s political life has exposed him to potential security risks but it’s his personal life that is of most interest to the journalists.

Woody and Sweetman are rivals.  Sweetman is a sensationalist whereas Woody writes for posterity. Each is writing a biography of Maguire with Woody choosing as his model Lytton Strachey’s Eminent Victorians.

Strachey along with Montaigne and La Rochefoucauld are among a wide cast of literary and philosophical personalities referenced throughout Bishop’s Delight adding insight and entertainment for the reader.

For the most part, the story is told from Woody’s point of view. As he and Sweetman investigate the disappearance, Maguire’s private life increasingly impacts on Woody’s turbulent love life. And one of Maguire’s relationships holds the key to the mysterious Bishop’s Delight.

Love and marriage are strong themes in Bishop’s Delight alongside politics, philosophy and writing. Literary references abound in this story which, rich in dark humour, is an entertaining and fun read.

An excellent choice for book clubs, Bishop’s Delight is also a novel to share with the philosophers and literary lovers in your life.

Bishop’s Delight by Patrick McGinley is published by New Island Books. 978-1-84840-491-5.

[Disclosure: An ARC was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review].

Sour by Alan Walsh | Debut novel set in a mythical Irish landscape

Sour by Alan Walsh is a modern retelling of the myth of Deirdre of the Sorrows. And, since a bit of escapism doesn’t go astray every now and then, when I got the opportunity to review it, I thought, ‘why not?’

Sour is a funny and at times dark story. It is set in a mythical Irish landscape populated by strange beasts. There’s a crow that smokes. There’s a goat possessed by a banshee. The humans are pretty strange too.  Essentially it’ a tale of runaway children and the search to find them.

Dee O’Loughlin is ‘a strange unnatural beauty’. She is kept under lock and key by her father. But Dee runs away with brothers Cormac and Declan Mac Neassa.

Mythical creature

The story begins when Conall Donoghue ‘a beetroot-faced, mule of a man’ sets out to find the Declan. Conall is accompanied by a ‘Púca’. The ‘puca’ is a mythical creature that only some of the other characters can see.

Sour is an imaginative fantasy. For the most part, the story is told from the Púca’s point of view. The storytelling is a bit confusing but if  you know the myth of Deirdre of the Sorrows, that helps. If you don’t, there’s a good summary on Alan Walsh’s blog.

[Disclosure: received a free review copy of Sour]