Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DARK SISTER by Graham Joyce


by Graham Joyce

Pub Date: July 5th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-86632-1
Publisher: Tor

The third US publication for British fantasist Joyce. Archeologist Alex Sanders, his redheaded wife Maggie, and their young children Amy and Sam live in a damp, leaky Victorian house. After exposing the original, pristine cast-iron and tile fireplace, they discover a dead blackbird and a handwritten hundred-year-old diary blocking the chimney. The children insist that the bird be buried, then later assert that it came back to life! Maggie, a frustrated housewife who dreams of taking a psychology degree, investigates the diary—which is actually a book of witchcraft. (Sam declares that he’s seen a sinister old woman riding a rat.) As her relationship with husband Alex deteriorates, and her three-year-old Sam’s behavior worsens, Maggie visits an herb shop where shopkeeper Ash, alerted by a blackbird, prevents Sam from leaping off a fourth-floor balcony! Maggie, using the diary, develops enhanced perceptions and reads of diarist Bella’s mysterious “dark sister,” then tells Alex where to dig in his excavations at the local castle. Sure enough, he uncovers a 16th-century set of ceremonial daggers, a woman’s skeleton, and evidence of a horrific interment. Ash sends the impatient Maggie to the tight-lipped but clearly knowledgeable Old Liz. During an elaborate diary-inspired ritual, Maggie clairvoyantly witnesses Alex’s adultery; that night he beats her up and she leaves. Old Liz learns of Sam’s rat-rider and wonders if she can protect him. At the court hearing, Alex resorts to dirty tricks to discredit Maggie, and gets custody of the kids. Against all advice, Maggie decides to regain her children by any means. Taut and realistic, but tending toward ordinary supernatural horror and without the nuances that made The Tooth Fairy (1998) such a delight.