Thursday, April 25, 2024

When She Was Me

When She Was Me by Marlee Bush
5/7/24; 400 pages
Poisoned Pen Press

When She Was Me by Marlee Bush is a highly recommended atmospheric murder mystery featuring sisterhood, obsessions, and many secrets.

After a traumatic incident in their past, twin sisters Cassie and Lenora have been inseparable. Now they live permanently in Cabin Two at an isolated Tennessee campground where they keep to themselves and Cassie films a true crime podcast. Lenora is agoraphobic and stays inside as much as possible, with the exception of careful trips to the bathhouse. After the owner of the campground dies, it is sold to a new owner who is going to allow the sisters to continue their long-term lease. Then cabin three is rented to a family with a teenage girl who later goes missing. As the search is on, the carefully cultivated life of Cassie and Lenora begins to unravel.

The twins are enmeshed in their own heads, while carefully watching others around them and each other. With a creepy, anticipatory atmospheric setting, this is a very slow paced and somewhat repetitious novel for a good portion of it, but it does make the tension rise keep rising ever so slowly until the action finally starts toward the end. The isolated camp surrounded by woods plays a major part in creating the eerie atmosphere.

The narrative is told through each sister's point of view with added "then" chapters disclosing their past. The contrast between the sisters is evident from the start and readers will want to know what happened to them in the past and how it impacted them. I can't honestly say that there are any likable or relatable characters present. There are strong themes involving the bonds between sisters and dysfunctional families.

Once the tension begins to increase, readers who have made it that far will be much more invested in the outcome. There is a twist at the end which is surprising. When She Was Me is a well written, excellent debut novel by Marlee Bush. Thanks to Poison Pen Press for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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