Ah, sibling rivalry…something anyone with a brother or sister is likely to understand. The arguments, the jealousy, and in my case at least, the hastily scribbled not-so-nice notes shoved under my older sister’s bedroom door when I was eight. While many of us thankfully grow closer to our siblings as we get older and wiser, it’s no surprise past experiences are fuel for the writer’s imagination, allowing us to tread the darker paths (hopefully) never taken. Mysteries and psychological thrillers are perfect for creating and exploring these twisted relationships. After all, a character’s deeply rooted animosity can fester for decades before exploding and unleashing all kinds of evil wrath on their unsuspecting family members. Here’s a list of ten older, more recent and new sibling stories to take you on a wild ride.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (September 1962)
Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood is eighteen and lives in a big house on large grounds with her older sister Constance, and their wheelchair-bound Uncle Julian. Six years prior, Merricat’s parents, aunt and younger brother died after they were poisoned, and young Constance was suspected of killing them. But did she do it? And how do the surviving family members cope with the increasingly hostile villagers who’d rather see them all burn? This was Jackson’s final work before she died in 1965, age 48.
Don’t you Cry by Mary Kubica (MIRA, May 2016)
When Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment, and a letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her things, it leaves her roommate, Quinn Collins, trying to figure out not only what happened, but also how well she knew her friend. Meanwhile, a mysterious woman called Alex appears in a small town an hour away. But how is she connected to Esther and Quinn, and what does she want? There’s something about Mary (see what I did there?) and her slow-burn mysteries that haunt me long after the story ends, and this one was no different.
My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Doubleday, November 2018)
The title alone of this book had me clambering for a copy. Korede’s sister, Ayoola, has a habit of, uh, “dispatching” boyfriends, and alleging self-defense. Korede knows it’s anything but. Now Korede’s expected to help clear up another of her sister’s messes instead of going straight to the police, and she helps Ayoola because she loves her… But what will happen when Ayoola starts dating the doctor Korede’s been in love with for quite some time? What will Korede do and who will she choose to save? Wholly original and utterly surprising.
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll (Simon & Schuster, May 2018)
If you enjoy Real Housewives then this is the juiciest of books for you. Brett and Kelly have always oscillated between supporting one another and being the bitterest of rivals. As kids, Kelly was the clever, pretty one whereas Brett got labelled as the problem child. Years later everything has changed. Kelly’s struggling whereas Brett is a wildly successful reality TV star. Not to be outdone, Kelly weasels her way onto her sisters show and reminds Brett she’s the one who knows all about a deep, dark secret that could be Brett’s undoing. It’s handbags at dawn, folks!
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (Atria, November 2019)
Not long after Libby Jones’ twenty-fifth birthday she not only inherits an abandoned mansion in a trendy part of London, but she also discovers the identity of her deceased birth parents—and the existence of siblings who could still be very much alive. In true Jewell fashion, this twisted story slowly creeps up the back of your neck as the mystery of what happened in that house, and who did what—and why—continues to unravel until the very last page.
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (St. Martin’s Press, February 2020)
Shay Miller, an isolated and lonely woman with an obsession for statistics, wants to belong. When she witnesses and tries to intervene in an apparent subway suicide, it changes her life forever. She meets and befriends the sophisticated Moore sisters, Cassandra and Jane, who immediately take an interest in shy Shay. What do they want from Shay? And why? Once again Hendricks and Pekkanen will have you guessing until surprising end.
He Started It by Samantha Downing (Berkley, April 2020)
Downing’s stellar debut My Lovely Wife took the world by storm and in He Started It, sibling rivalry reaches new and downright despicable levels. Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan don’t see each other often and that’s a good thing, because when they do, bad. stuff. happens. Greed, lies and betrayal are all rolled into a crazy-ass road trip. Downing is one bold and fearless author, who doesn’t blink in the face of fictional mayhem.
This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row, May 2020)
More than two decades ago, the body of teenager Eve Knox was found in nearby caves by her best friend Maggie, and Eve’s sister, Nola. When potential new evidence is uncovered, Maggie, now a detective and seven months pregnant, is determined to find out what happened to Eve that night. Full of dark twists and questionable characters with even more questionable motives, Gudenkauf is a master at writing small-town creepy.
The Half Sister by Sandie Jones (Minotaur Books, June 2020)
I haven’t read this one yet, but the premise has had me muttering gimme, gimme, gimme for months. Siblings Kate and Lauren are grieving the loss of their beloved father and meet for lunch each week without fail. Their world changes when a young woman called Jess contacts them, claiming she’s their half-sister. Turns out everyone is hiding something, and maybe this family isn’t so perfect after all. I can’t wait to find out why.
Hurry Home by Roz Nay (Crooked Lane Books, July 2020)
When Alexandra Van Ness’ long-lost troublemaking sister, Ruth, unexpectedly shows up at her door, Alex’s seemingly wonderful life descends into chaos. As deeply buried secrets claw their way to the surface, nothing will ever be the same again for Alex or Ruth—and both of them may well lose everything. Dark, twisty and utterly engrossing, Nay’s writing is as emotional as it is compelling.
There you have it. Ten books with twisted familial relationships that make Snow White’s step-sisters seem like her BFFs…and that makes me think it’s time to give my lovely big sis a call for a nice long chat.