Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: nightmares, urban legends, ghosts, monsters, death, murder.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
This is a backlist McMahon novel, but as many of you who follow my reviews know, I LOVE McMahon’s novels. They are the perfect amount of creepy for me, and I’ve yet to be disappointed by her writing- and that goes for this novel as well.
In the novel, we are introduced to multiple characters during different time periods, so it may seem a little confusing- but hang in there with me.
First, in the 1950s/60s, there is the Slater family, with sister duo Sylvie and Rose. Their parents ran a motel off Route 6 in London, VT. They were close but always at odds with each other. When their grandmother visits from London, England, she tells the legend of the Mare, a half-human, half transformational monster.
Later, in the 1980s, and present 2013, we are introduced to sisters Piper and Margo, whose friend Amy is Rose’s daughter. Charlotte Slater, Rose’s mother, was almost always in sole care of Amy, so the girls often spent time at the family’s motel during the long summers, even though it became almost obsolete due to the construction of a highway that drove past London, VT. As a team, they decide to explore the tower by the motel, and end up finding some of Sylvies old letters to Alfred Hitchcock and notes about the Mare. When they learn more about the legend, and the sudden disappearance of Syvlie, the girls decide to find the truth- except the truth becomes more than they can bear.
In present 2013, Margo calls Piper to tell her that Amy, her son, and her husband have all been brutally murdered, apparently at Amy’s hands. The lone survivor is Amy’s daughter, Lou. Piper returns to Vermont to try and keep long buried secrets from surfacing as the case is being investigated.
As darn near promised with her name on the cover, McMahon creates a rapid-paced suspense thriller that leaves you on the edge of your seat until the last page. I had a hard time predicting who the culprit was when it became clear that murder scene was more than the cops expected. The flow between time periods and characters was very easy to follow and each transition was clear- this was especially excellent as I listened to the audiobook instead of reading a hard copy. In addition to that, the narration was good- believable, well paced, and enjoyable to the ear- so there was no distraction from the plot.
As always, I enjoy when an author makes me want to do a little research and share. I first was curious if there was a London, VT off Route 6 between White River and Barre- there isn’t. There is a Route 6 that goes from the east coast of Massachusetts to California, but it doesn’t intersect Vermont. I also couldn’t find anything on London, VT. So this lead me to my next search- is the legend of the Mare real? This one is true- there is an old German, English, and Slavic roots in the legend of Mares, which were malicious entities that sat on people’s chest while they slept, causing them to have nightmares. Depending on the country of orgin, there’s a lot of ways one could experience or become affected by a Mare, but none seem to fall exactly the way McMahon describes, so overall I’d say bonus points for creativity.
In the end, I would say this is a great, creepy but not too frightening ghostly supernatural style suspense thriller that anyone could enjoy. Just don’t read it before you go to bed, or if you have to be out in the dark!
TL/DR: The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon is a tale of sisterhood and a family curse that haunts the family for years. It’s a creepy tale full of thrills and suspense.
Read it? Yes!
Recommend it? Yes, if you can handle scary but not grotesque novels. Best for adults or mature readers.
Buy it? It’s a backlist novel, so if you love McMahon and want a copy for your collection, I’d buy a used or secondhand copy. Otherwise, I would say save your money for when her next new novel comes out!
If you liked this novel or review, check out these similar reads: