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The Wicked Sister


The Wicked Sister

Diana was the Cunninghams’ first-born and was loved beyond words. Gradually, though, Diana’s mother, Jenny, started to worry about her daughter’s unusual behavior. Something didn’t seem right. And when tragedy struck in their own backyard, Jenny’s suspicions turned to horror at what she feared Diana had done. So the Cunninghams pulled up stakes and moved to the family’s remote lodge in the midst of vast wooded acreage, hoping to create an environment that might help Diana thrive. Maybe there, the girl could grow into a healthy, normal adult. But Diana had no intention of doing that.

Jenny soon became pregnant again. Their second child, Rachel, could not have been more opposite. Sweet, caring and a girl who loved nature, Rachel was ripe for manipulation by Diana, who took full advantage of her ability to get Rachel to do as she wanted. Like an evil marionette, she pulled the strings. Armed with the knowledge that Rachel enjoyed fairy tales, Diana suggested reenacting them. Only her version had a sinister twist. Jenny decided that she must put a stop to her older daughter’s dangerous tricks.

"This is classic good versus evil. A real live cat-and-mouse game. Moreover, it’s an absolutely eerie delight to read."

Finally, tensions rose to the breaking point. Shots rang out, and the elder Cunninghams lay dead on the floor. In a panic, Rachel fled into the woods, appalled at having killed her mother. When she finally emerged, she committed herself to a mental hospital, where she intended to spend the rest of her life. And she stayed there for 15 years.

But one day, her friend’s brother, a young journalist, asked if he could interview her for one of those “Where are they now?” sorts of features. Rachel agreed. When she looked over some of the documents he brought along, though, she was stunned. Rachel had been so sure of her guilt. Absolutely positive, in fact. In her dreams, she always saw herself holding the rifle, her mother soaked in blood, lying dead at her feet. But this report cast a whole lot of doubt on that scenario.

Now Rachel knows she must recover her full memory in order to discover the truth, and the place to do that is at the lodge where her parents died. Before the murders, she was at her happiest there. The forest and its inhabitants filled her days with joy. Her childhood felt idyllic. Except for the dark times that Diana wanted to play those games. Sometimes the games were fun, but Diana had a way of turning fun things into terrifying ones.

Rachel regrets having allowed herself to be so easily led, but it was impossible to refuse to do what her sister demanded. Diana always got what Diana wanted. Rachel is determined to change that this time around. To do that, she will have to outsmart Diana and survive her counterattacks. Diana has her own plans that don’t include Rachel in her future.

While you might see what’s coming and want to yell, “No, don’t go there!” you know it’s going to happen anyway. But the real mystery in Karen Dionne's THE WICKED SISTER is in what happens next. And there’s always something happening next. Diana Cunningham is a truly wicked character. And Rachel, the one who sees the best in everyone, does figure it out, but she’s the good sister, which keeps her from totally embracing how wicked Diana is. This is classic good versus evil. A real live cat-and-mouse game. Moreover, it’s an absolutely eerie delight to read.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on August 14, 2020

The Wicked Sister
by Karen Dionne