I enjoyed The Broken Ones by Ren Richards, best known for her YA and middle-grade books (writing as Lauren DeStefano). I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but Richards blends two mysteries into this novel seamlessly, giving both equal levels of intrigue.
I really liked some of the relationships on offer as well, particularly the bond between sisters and the extent to which we go to protect and preserve ‘family’.
The Broken Ones
by Ren Richards
Published by Viper
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
A bestselling true crime writer, Nell tells other people's stories. But there is one story she won't tell.
Ten years ago, she was a teenage mother with a four-year-old she found desperately hard to love. Then the little girl disappeared.
As Nell begins to interview the subject of her next book, a woman convicted of murdering her twin sister, it becomes clear that someone has uncovered her true identity. And they know that Nell didn't tell the truth about the day her daughter vanished...
Nell and her sister Lindsay are almost inseparable. Lindsay’s only four years older than her sister but practically raised her. Their relationship is more evenly-balanced now. Lindsay still watches over Nell, and Nell seems to bail Lindsay out of the occasional scrape.
Lindsay and Nell have an interesting relationship with their mother and obviously their childhood’s impacted on who they are ‘now’.
Nell’s finishing off her second true-crime book (and being paid a pretty penny for it) when we first meet her. She lives with Sebastian (Bas) but is overly paranoid about him leaving her. We learn why when we discover she’s been keeping secrets from him and isn’t sure how he’ll react.
It’s through Nell’s eyes we meet Easter, imprisoned for murdering her twin sister (Autumn). The story is kinda macabre.. conjoined twins from Russia, separated (physically) then adopted in the US. Nell doesn’t particularly like Easter but her belief that her sister is still alive and conflicting accounts of the twins’ behaviour from their adoptive mother and birth brother makes her story compelling.
And in the midst of all of this is the mystery of Nell’s own daughter Reina. There’s not much attention given to the fact Nell was pregnant at 14 but Richards takes us back in time to revisit some of the events around the four-year-old’s disappearance.
The strength of this novel (for me) was our characters (Nell and Lindsay) and their relationship. I realise it’s not entirely normal but I read so many books about dysfunctional siblings it’s weird to come across the opposite.
There’s also some ponderance on ‘evil’. Not a lot however, and I would have liked that examined more. Nell’s reaction to her daughter is interesting as is her own mother’s ‘take’ on Reina. And of course this concept of ‘evil’ is reflected via Easter and Autumn.
It’s rare that I suggest thrillers or novels of suspense would be good book club books. I think this would however as there are a few things begging for some analysis and discussion. Such as Nell’s disengagement after the birth of her daughter and difficulties in coping with her, as well as the reaction of the father’s family. And of course the relationship between Nell and Bas; Lindsay’s attraction to certain types of men; and the sisters’ relationship with their mother. So… a lot to think and talk about.
The Broken Ones by Ren Richards was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.