This is the first book I have read by this Australian author (Caroline Overington), as my part in contributing to the Australian Literature Month on the Reading Matters blog. I didn't really know what to expect of the plot, characters or writing style, but I had read a couple of reviews which warned that the book didn't tie up all loose ends so I was prepared for that. Of the reviews I read on the Goodreads website, the book seemed to polarise opinion (people either seemed to really like it, or find the ending wasn't satisfying and therefore hated it).
It is a contemporary crime/mystery set in Sydney and Melbourne, and is told in a way that makes you believe it is a real unsolved mystery based on real events (although it isn't), with many little accurate details of locations and events scattered throughout. It is thought-provoking, well-written and a real page turner. It is disturbing in parts (but more in the way of a Kathy Reichs book rather than Michael Faber's 'under my skin'). It does bring up issues of foster care and welfare of severely handicapped children in Australia over the last 40 years, some of which is pretty horrific and you just have to hope that at least the worst of it is all fiction... The story is told by two main characters: Snow Delaney (a nurse caring for handicapped children; currently in jail) and Jack Fawcett (a journalist following the case of Snow's missing sister).
I don't want to give away too much of the plot or of the character of Snow, as the slow unfolding of her story and her unbalanced mind is one of the most compelling aspects of this book. And the book is not all dark, there are touches of humour, for how can you not love a book which includes a budgie named Tony Abbot?! I am really thrilled to have stumbled upon a new Australian author whose writing I really enjoy (and excited to discover she has already written several others for me to look out for). Thanks to the Australian Literature Month challenge which inspired me to go looking for a book by an Australian author that I had not previously read before.
The synopsis of the story from the publisher's website:
"Sisters of Mercy" by Caroline Overington is the haunting crime novel of two sisters - one has vanished, the other is behind bars...
Snow Delaney was born a generation and a world away from her sister, Agnes. Until recently, neither even knew of the other's existence. They came together only for the reading of their father's will - when Snow discovered, to her horror, that she was not the sole beneficiary of his large estate. Now Snow is in prison and Agnes is missing, disappeared in the eerie red dust that blanketed Sydney from dawn on September 23, 2009.
With no other family left, Snow turns to crime journalist Jack Fawcett, protesting her innocence in a series of defiant letters from prison. Has she been unfairly judged? Or will Jack's own research reveal a story even more shocking than the one Snow wants to tell?
I read this book on my Kindle in April 2013.
My score: 9/10