Review – ‘The Good Sisters’ by Helen Phifer

Happy Publication day to Helen Phifer whose new chilling mystery, The Good Sisters is released today.

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In 1931, Mother Superior Agnes opens her doors to offer sanctuary to a young woman who claims that she is running from an abusive husband. There is something about this woman that makes Agnes uneasy, something which she cannot put her finger on but which her younger Sisters do not seem to see. When she wakes the following morning to find that something terrible has happened to one of the other women. But the young woman befell her fate in a room which was locked from the inside and from which no killer could possibly flee. Agnes cannot help but worry about just who or what she has allowed to enter their convent but not even she can’t begin to understand the true nature of evil which has entered those hallowed walls.

Kate Parker has a dream. To open up the Bed and Breakfast that she and her best friend Amy had always dreamed of. Large and secluded, the old convent seems to be the perfect starting point for Kate to bring their dreams to life. Struggling to cope after Amy’s death and the breakdown of her marriage, Kate needs this, and puts in an offer on the house which is accepted right away, even though she hadn’t set a single foot inside. When she finally meets up with builder Oliver and enters the house for the first time, she knows that this is it. The answer to all her problems and the perfect home for her and her two girls. If only she can get rid of the creepy crucifixes which are scattered across the house.

But a dark and secluded home is a very scary place to be on your own and when she starts to hear strange noises at night, and the crucifixes she removed start to reappear on the walls, Kate begins to wonder if she is really alone after all. What she will learn is that old houses are full of history, and the secrets that those walls and boarded up windows have contained are darker than any she has known before.

‘The Good Sisters’ is a wonderful mix of mystery and horror, perfect to curl up with for a Halloween read. Ghosties, ghoulies, demons, both physical and psychological, and a little bit of romance to boot, what more could you ask for? This is a classic tale of good verses evil which starts with Sister Agnes battle with the evil that invades her home in 1931, continues as the convent is opened up to house children during the war, and finishing with Kate, who takes on the final battle to rid the house of evil once and for all.

The story itself switches back and forth between past and present, from Agnes story which shows how the evil took hold, through to Kate, who is battling alcohol, her sanity, a vile ex-husband, and now, some kind of ghostly presence which is determined to take Kate as it did the sisters all those years ago. The story of the past does not end with Agnes and we see the efforts of the police and the church to prevent anyone from entering the convent, not always successfully. As a reader, we know who is responsible for the evil, but not what, and we learn more as the story goes on, gradually understanding the impact of what is happening to Kate.

sweet too and a real gentleman to boot, always looking out for Kate so she was never truly alone.

The horror elements of this book were not overly gruesome, the most horrific elements implied rather than described in any great detail. But it is the psychological elements that will unsettle the most, that and the noises and quiet whisperings which affect Kate so strongly. If I was being honest, there were perhaps one too many mediums conveniently on hand. To have one, might have been believable, but to find two people drawn to the same small town who have the ability to communicate with the dead kind of pushed it a little too far for me. The chapters were also quite long and it might have helped pacing if they had been separated a little more as the flow certainly allowed for it.

It was a great story, perhaps geared more towards a young adult audience, or people who like an edge to their mystery without being fully grossed out. I would definitely recommend it for a quite Halloween read although you many not want to read it if you’re on your own in an old house because you will be left wondering if the little clinking sound you can hear really is the radiator. And the scratching at the window? That’s just next doors hedge. Right?

A creepy, chilling, romantic, with a good old dash of evil 4 stars.

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I reviewed an advance copy of ‘The Good Sisters’ by Helen Phifer supplied by NetGalley and publishers Carina UK. The book can be ordered here:

Amazon UK