Sister Dear (Laura McNeill) – Review

4 stars
Publisher’s Description
All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start.  But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever?

Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows.

But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.

As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom.


Allie rolled the word around in her mouth.  It was strange, even thinking it.  A place of her own.  Somewhere without bars.  Or guards.  A space she could stretch out in and not touch cement wall.
Allie’s breath quickened.
Home was the ability to walk down a street and still be able to pick out the house where your first-grade teacher lived.  Home was the knowledge that the local library still held that musty smell and books stacked to the ceiling.  Home meant that when you went for a drive, every single person you passed waved.
Allie loved Brunswick, always had.  She’d grown up here, and had planned on coming back to practice after going to med school and completing her residency.
Now, though, she was in many ways a female version of Robinson Crusoe.  Shipwrecked, sea-salt brined, and beaten from the surf.  Left to her own devices.  A stranger in a strange land, empty-handed, wishing to God she had a compass and a radio to signal for help.
She was starting over in Brunswick, but she was a survivor.
After all, she’d lived through Arrendale, a jungle in its own right.  A place so treacherous, so full of predators, many women didn’t make it out.  She’d existed, however, relying on her own wits, her instincts.  Tamping down fear and pushing away despair.
Allie would prove her innocence.  She would find the clues that linked Sheriff Gaines to Coach Boyd Thomas’s murder, if it was the last thing she did.
And then, only then, Allie would be truly free.


My review
I’m not sure whether perhaps my expectations were set too high for this story, or maybe just misdirected, but what I thought would be an intriguing ‘who-dunnit?’ thriller actually ended up being more of a ‘why-and-how’d-it-happen?’ gradual reveal.  Don’t get me wrong; it was an intriguing story, with an element of ‘psychological thriller’ to the plot, but if you’re looking for a ‘who-dunnit?’ or twists you didn’t see coming, you may be disappointed.

At the beginning of the novel, Allie is about to be released on parole.  Ten years earlier, she was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after she was found beside the body of Boyd Thomas, coach of the increasingly successful football team at Mansfield Academy.  As a result of Allie’s conviction, her five-year-old daughter, Caroline, was given to into the guardianship of Allie’s younger sister, Emma.  Allie also broke off her engagement to Ben, an up-and-coming political advisor, rather than allow him to ruin his reputation and career by association.  Now that she’s out, she has two goals: reconnecting with her daughter, and proving her innocence once and for all.

She’s got her work cut out for her.  On both counts.

The story unfolds through four different points-of-view: Allie, her sister Emma, her daughter Caroline, and Sheriff Gaines (who attended the scene of the crime).  It also alternates between the present and the past, allowing the story of what really happened in the lead-up to Coach Boyd Thomas’ death to unfold in tandem with Allie’s quest to prove her innocence.  From a technical point of view, this was done quite smoothly and was easy to follow, but I couldn’t help feeling that it also made the story a little too transparent.

Transparency aside, I was keen to keep reading as the pieces began falling into place for some and unravelling for others.  And this was where there was some advantage in having all four points-of-view, because the reader was braced for something Allie and Caroline had no idea was coming.

As far as the actual writing is concerned, I found it faltered on the side of telling rather than showing from time to time, but was otherwise fairly strong.

Just a few reader caveats:  Although published by Thomas Nelson publishers, this is not a Christian novel in the sense that there is any overt faith-based message woven into the story.  There are also scenes that refer to adulterous and immoral sexual activity.  This is portrayed in a negative light and results in negative consequences.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.

Buy from:                        Amazon US icon us-flag-small                                 Amazon US icon australian-flag small

Release date:  19 April 2016
Pages:  400
Publisher:  Thomas Nelson
Author’s website:

About Fiction Aficionado

Homeschooling mum, word lover, reader extraordinaire, and follower of Christ
Image | This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary Fiction, New Releases and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sister Dear (Laura McNeill) – Review

  1. lynetteb2015 says:

    Wow, that was a really thorough and informative review. Thank you!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.