The World According to Renee

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Review: Sisters of Mercy

Let me start by saying two things: 1) I was so annoyed with the book by page 150 that I was tempted not to finish it, 2) The hook of the novel isn’t what the story is about, which is a trademark of Caroline Overington’s novels.

Sisters of Mercy by Caroline Overington starts out to be a mystery: what happened to a grandmother who went missing during a 2009 dust storm in Sydney? The story doesn’t start or end there, and the mystery is belayed to the background while a different yet related story is told. At the centre of both is Snow Delaney, the long-lost sister of the missing woman who is in prison for other crimes. Her story is told to a journalist through letters while the journalist pieces together what the hell is going on (as all good journalists do).

The novel has a few gaping flaws, which lessened the believability somewhat and led to my annoyances with the plot.

Journalist Jack Fawcett seems to be an outsider on the case. He misses a lot of the important developments in the story, therefore also missing being the one to publish the scoop. In fact it seems he only becomes truly interested in the case when Snow begins writing to him from prison, which she does to correct him on mistakes in his articles. It is never mentioned whether Snow has written to other journalists; presumably she’s found fault with their articles as well (as she mentions later in her letters to Jack about media sensationalism vs truth). So here we have a journo with his hands tied- the story has gone cold, the links to the missing granny have closed and he’s left with an inquiring mind with nothing to gain. Although Jack reveals nothing of his own life, it’s easy to imagine him as a bachelor with nothing better to do than follow trails of breadcrumbs.

The most interesting person in the novel is Snow, a nurse and foster carer for disabled children, currently imprisoned for her startling naivety.

Apart from the granny, the owner of Delaney House (Snow’s care centre for disabled children) has also gone missing. Snow pleads innocence; she didn’t question the disappearance although in the closing chapters it is revealed she lied about her whereabouts during a critical time. Intertwined with these disappearances lies Snow’s story of how and why she came to care for disabled children which ultimately led to her imprisonment.

I like the ambiguity of who might have done what, although I am not in the least bit convinced Snow had anything to do with either disappearance. Her boyfriend has motive for both missing women: money. The owner of the house bequeathed the home to both Mark and Snow in her will, coincidentally signed just days before she went missing. Snow wanted the house, sure, but the money and equity afforded to Mark probably proved too tempting. Snow’s sister, the missing granny, stood to inherit over a million dollars which, if she was out of the picture, would become Snow’s inheritance. Considering Mark’s criminal record and gambling addiction, surely he would at least have to be a suspect, but apparently not. As mentioned, by page 150 I was outraged that the blindingly obvious solution to all the novel’s mysteries had not been mentioned. It was only after Ms Overington herself replied to my frustrated tweet that I finished the novel.

Apart from the most obvious person not being a suspect, I had difficulty believing Snow could be that naive. Both media and the law grasped her inhumanity, but yet Snow was blind to it all. What she believed was in the best interests for her clients was in fact child abuse, which she was eventually imprisoned for.

All in all, this novel is what one can expect from Caroline Overington, a former journalist. Along with this one, her previous novels contain a hook which is part of the story, not the whole story, and quite often don’t have a narrative resolution. I actually quite like this style. As happens so often in Real Life, stories have no resolution and it becomes a trial by media and the public. As such, the reader is left to form their own conclusions which may or may not be what happened. Case in point: the boyfriend’s non-suspect status (which turns out not to matter much but is oddly convenient…) Although I am not a journalist nor studying to become one, I am required to undertake journalism units to earn my PR degree. Knowing Ms Overington has a journalism background, I was interested to see the differences between journalism theory and practice, especially the tendency of sensationalism and twisting of facts to create a story.

As always, the sign of a good novel is the ability to bitch about it. It shows you’re engaged enough to care what happens. I’d read it again and look for clues that Jack Fawcett missed.

7 out of 10 bookmarks.

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December 17, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thank you for your kindness, in finishing a book that caused you such frustration! And the review is not all bad, so I’m grateful! 🙂

    Comment by Caroline Overington | December 17, 2012 | Reply


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