Jennifer McMahon’s The Night Sister is out on paperback today! This beautifully written, chilling mystery examines the bond between two estranged sisters as they dig into their past after an old friend is accused of a horrifying murder. McMahon’s compelling storytelling and masterful pacing draws you in from beginning to surprising end. For those who love thrillers and psychological mysteries, this is a book that shouldn’t be missed!
The latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Jennifer McMahon (The Winter People) is an atmospheric, gripping, and suspenseful tale that probes the bond between sisters and the peril of keeping secrets.
The Tower Motel was once a thriving attraction of rural Vermont. Today it lies in disrepair, alive only in the memories of the three women—Amy, Piper, and Piper’s kid sister, Margot—who played there as children. They loved exploring the abandoned rooms … until the day their innocent games uncovered something dark and twisted that ruined their friendship forever.
Now, Amy stands accused of committing a horrific crime, and the only hint to her motives is a hasty message that forces Piper and Margot to revisit the motel’s past, and the fate of two sisters who lived there in its heyday. Sylvie Slater had dreams of running off to Hollywood and becoming Alfred Hitchcock’s leading lady, while her little sister, Rose, was content with their simple life. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one knows the secret that will haunt the generations to come.
“Last night … they’re saying Amy shot and killed Mark and their little boy, Levi, and then herself out at the motel. Lou—that’s her daughter?—she’s alive. The police found her crouched on the roof. She climbed out a window and hid there. … I can’t imagine how she … what she …” Margot trailed off.
Piper said nothing. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.
After a moment, Margot went on:
“She didn’t just shoot them, Piper. They were … all cut up. Butchered.”
Margot started to cry and gulp again. Piper forced herself to take deep breaths. Behind the shock and gut punch of loss, another feeling was there, worming its way to the surface: fear.
Piper looked over at the framed photo she kept on her dresser: Amy, freckle-faced and smiling as she stood between Piper and Margot, her arms draped heavily over each of their shoulders. They all looked impossibly happy, grinning up from the bottom of the empty swimming pool, white roller skates with bright laces on their feet. This photo had been in her bedroom at home when she was growing up, in her dorm room at college, and in every apartment and house she’d lived in since.
“When was the last time you talked to Amy?” Margot asked at last, the phone crackling, her voice staticky, like it was coming in from a far-off radio station.
“It’s been a while,” Piper said, feeling light-headed, queasy. And guilty. Margot had urged her, over the years, to reach out to Amy, to try harder. But Amy had made it clear after that summer that she didn’t want to remain friends. They hadn’t lost touch completely—she and Amy sent each other occasional Christmas cards with impersonal messages and, in Amy’s case, stiff-looking school photos of her kids posed against colored backdrops. They were friends on Facebook, and now and then promised each other that they’d get together soon. But when Piper made it back to London to visit Margot every couple of years, the time always seemed to fly by—Amy had to work, or the kids were sick, or Piper was just there for a couple of days to help paint the nursery. Whatever the excuse, she and Amy never got together. Next time, they promised each other. Next time.
Maybe Margot was right—she should have made more of an effort. She should have called Amy to check in from time to time, to ask how the kids were, how Mark’s job was going, to talk the way women talked. After all, she’d let herself imagine it often enough. She had an ongoing imaginary conversation with Amy that had gone on for years. In her mind, Amy was the first person to get all the big news: each of Piper’s relationships and breakups; the steady rise of the video-production studio she and her friend Helen had started six years ago; her scare last year with the lump in her breast that turned out to be benign. But the reality was, Piper never actually picked up the phone. It was easier, more comforting, to go on talking to the Amy in her head—the Amy of her childhood, not the adult version with two children whose names she could never quite remember and a husband who Piper knew only through Facebook photos.
She stared harder at the photo on the dresser, tried to remember that particular day, but all that came back was the sound the wheels of their roller skates had made on the bottom of the pool, the smell of Amy’s Love’s Baby Soft, and the way Amy’s arm around her made her feel invincible. Who had taken the picture? Amy’s grandmother, most likely. The image was tilted at an awkward angle, as though the earth were off its axis that day.
“There’s something else,” Margot breathed into the phone, voice low and shaky. “Something that Jason said.” Jason was one of the half-dozen officers in the tiny London Police Department. In a town where the biggest crimes were deer jacking and the occasional break-in, Piper could imagine how they were handling a gruesome murder-suicide.
“What was it?” Piper said.
“He said they found an old photo with … at the scene.”
“A photo?” For a crazy second, Piper imagined that Margot was talking about her photo, the photo on the dresser.
“Yeah. It sounds like the one we found that summer. Remember?”
“Yes,” Piper breathed. She remembered it too well. Amy’s mom and her aunt Sylvie as kids, in old-fashioned dresses, cradling fat chickens against their chests. It had been taken years before Sylvie disappeared. So—a different photo, of different girls; a different innocent childhood.
“Well, someone had written something on it. None of this is being talked about on the news,” Margot went on. “Not yet. No one in the department can figure out what it means. The theory is that Amy was just crazy. Jason asked me if I had any idea what it was about, and I said I didn’t. But I think he knows I was lying.”
Piper felt her throat getting tighter. She swallowed hard, and made herself ask the question. “What did it say?”
There was a long pause. At last, her sister spoke.
“Oh Jesus,” said Piper. She took in a breath, felt the room tilting around her. Suddenly she was twelve again and skating around at the bottom of that old pool with the cracked cement and peeling paint. Up above, Margot was going in backward circles around the edge, and Amy was whispering a secret in Piper’s ear—breath hot, words desperate.
“I’ll be on the next plane,” promised Piper. “Don’t do anything. Don’t say a word to anyone. Not even to Jason. Not until I get there. Promise?”
“I promise,” Margot said, her voice sounding far off, a kite bobbing at the end of a long string Piper was barely able to hold on to.
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