The Missing Sister, a review by Joanna

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The Missing Sister

Lucinda Riley

Published May 27, 2021

783 pages

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This is the seventh book in the bestselling Seven Sisters series, and was originally going to be the last one, until the author realised she couldn’t answer all the questions raised in one book, and that there would need to be another one. This has since been finished by her son, as tragically she died last year. I’ve read the previous six, with varying degrees of enjoyment, and bought this a while ago, but the mostly negative reviews – both online and from friends, and its outrageous length put me off. Apparently book eight is much better though, so I decided to just push on through with this one so I can finish off the series.

It’s 2008, and the d’Aplièse sisters are preparing to commemorate the one year anniversary of their adoptive father’s mysterious death, by gathering with their newly acquired relatives and/or partners on his superyacht in the Aegean to lay a wreath. Then his lawyer tells them he has at last tracked down Merope, the long lost sister they have never met, in a remote part of New Zealand. Determined to get her to join them, the sisters – conveniently scattered around the world, each take a turn in trying to track her and then her mother down – but why is Merry so set on evading them?
So this book compounds the whole ridiculous premise of an ageing billionaire being allowed to randomly collect baby girls from around the world, raise them in luxury while telling them nothing about their own or his background, then send them off to find their origins once he’s dead, with just some obscure clues to help. Now we are expected to believe that just as the one that got away is located, her father has conveniently also just died, and her mother has only just left on a voyage of discovery to rediscover her roots and face the threat that drove her to leave Ireland 37 years earlier.The sisters, who are all supposed to be lovely young women, then think it’s okay to stalk said mother around the world, due to an obsession with confirming that the ring she wears matches a picture of one that is purported to prove her identity, even when it’s clear she wants nothing to do with them!
This follows the same formula as the previous books, in having the present day and past characters stories be told in first person and third person – by way of a diary, respectively. In the earlier books I’ve usually liked one or other of the main characters, but unfortunately here I couldn’t stand either of them. Being English, I’m probably prejudiced, but making Nuala a supporter of the original IRA movement, made her impossible to sympathise with, especially with how things turn out. Even though they’re not the full-blown terrorists of the 70s & 80s, they’re still fine with bombs, house-burnings and murder, and turn on anyone who supports a peaceful resolution.
Merry, who is supposed to be so bright, could’ve avoided pretty much all of the conflict in the book by just communicating with people, instead of keeping everything a secret. Even when cards are being laid on tables, she’s still all “oh I’m too tired, I’ll tell you next time” so that the suspense can be dragged on for more chapters. In fact, the word “exhausted” is used 53 times, and that’s only one example of the repetition that plagues the narrative – so many tedious details and exchanges, over and over. And don’t get me started on the boozing – if you had a drink every time one of the characters (who all claim not to drink much usually) did, you’d be dead of alcohol poisoning before you finished it. Even characters who are frail, pregnant and breastfeeding just keep knocking ‘em back!
Despite all the negatives, I did get sucked in to the mystery, such as it was, and didn’t contemplate giving up, so I’m rounding up from 2.5, and am glad I don’t have a long wait for the next one (I can see why all the people who read it when it came out were so frustrated by the ending.) I would only recommend this to people who have enjoyed all the previous books and need answers – you definitely can’t read this as a stand-alone.

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