Cover image for The night sister
The night sister
Center Point Large Print edition.
Physical Description:
464 pages (large print) ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: New York : Doubleday, 2015.
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Once the thriving attraction of rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever. Now adult, Piper and Margot have tried to forget what they found that fateful summer, but their lives are upended when Piper receives a panicked midnight call from Margot, with news of a horrific crime for which Amy stands accused. Suddenly, Margot and Piper are forced to relive the time that they found the suitcase that once belonged to Silvie Slater, the aunt that Amy claimed had run away to Hollywood to live out her dream of becoming Hitchcock's next blonde bombshell leading lady. As Margot and Piper investigate, a cleverly woven plot unfolds-- revealing the story of Sylvie and Rose, two other sisters who lived at the motel during its 1950s heyday. Each believed the other to be something truly monstrous, but only one carries the secret that would haunt the generations to come.


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Once a thriving attraction in rural Vermont, the Tower Motel now stands in disrepair, alive only in the memories of Amy, Piper, and Piper's kid sister, Margot. The three played there as girls, until the day that their games uncovered something dark and twisted in the motel's past, something that ruined their friendship forever.

Author Notes

Jennifer McMahon was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1968. She received a BA from Goddard College in 1991 and studied poetry for a year in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College. Before becoming full-time writer in 2000, she worked as a house painter, farm worker, homeless shelter staff member, and counselor for adults and kids with mental illness. Her first novel, Promise Not to Tell, was published in 2007. Her other works include Island of Lost Girls, Dismantled, and My Tiki Girl. In 2014, her title The Winter People made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bestseller McMahon (The Winter People) combines suspense with fantasy in this convoluted tale. Amy Slater apparently murders her husband and son before killing herself at the Tower Motel in London, Vt., where she grew up. An old photograph with a cryptic note is the sole clue to the crime. Only Amy's childhood friends, sisters Margot and Piper, understand the note's reference to a secret that shattered their friendship with her years earlier. Refusing to believe Amy capable of murder, Margot and Piper delve into the motel's past and the troubled Slater history-which includes Amy's aunt's unsolved disappearance. The story moves, not always seamlessly, from the present to 1989, when the girls discover a skeleton in a hidden room, and to the 1950s, when Amy's mother and aunt were growing up. Teenage Amy is vivid and engaging, but other characters are not as well drawn. McMahon effectively creates an atmosphere of horror, and readers willing to entertain magic realism in their mysteries may find the Slaters' secrets compelling. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

McMahon's story moves back and forth between two eras; both plotlines circle around a hotel in London, VT. In the 1950s, when the 28-room hotel was a destination spot for truckers, salesmen, and annual family trips north, the guests were treated to a special chicken act by sisters Sylvie and Rose. The nearby building of a highway bypass caused a crisis for the hotel, and it eventually went out of business. The contemporary segment reflects on the childhood adventures of three girls who used to play on the hotel grounds. Now two of the three, sisters Piper and Margot, are shaken by a brutal crime of which the third friend, Amy, stands accused. McMahon juggles the time periods well and creates a solid cast of characters that rival those in the creepiest of fairy tales. Cassandra Campbell does an excellent job narrating. VERDICT Highly recommended for mystery audiences.-Joyce Kessel, Villa -Maria Coll., Buffalo © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



  Amy    Amy's heart hammers, and her skin is slick with sweat. Focus , she tells herself.  Don't think about the thing in the tower.   Amy knows that if she thinks too hard about it, she won't be able to do what needs to be done.  She looks down at the photo, the old black-and-white print she's kept for almost thirty years, hidden away in the drawer of her bedside table.  It's been handled so much that it's cracked and faded, one of the corners torn.               In it, her mother, Rose, and her Aunt Sylvie are young girls, wearing crisp summer dresses as they stand in front of a sign that says World Famous London Chicken Circus .  Each girl clutches a worried-looking hen, but that's where the similarities end. Amy's mother is wearing a scowl beneath tired eyes, her hair dark and unkempt, while Sylvie is radiant, the one who was going to grow up and go to Hollywood. Her blond hair is movie-star perfect, her eyes shining. Someone had scrawled a date on the back: June, 1955. If only Amy could travel back in time, talk to those two girls, warn them what was coming.  Warn them that one day, it would all lead to this moment: Amy alone and out of options, on the verge of doing something terrible. She bites her lip and wonders what people will say about her once she's gone.   That she was broken inside, a woman with a screw loose (Aren't all women like that, really?  Little time bombs waiting? Especially women like her--surviving on monthly boxes from the food pantry, dressing her children in ragged, second-hand clothes that never quite fit.)  What went wrong ? they will whisper to each other while fondling artichokes and avocados in the produce aisle of the grocery store.        What kind of monster was she ? they might ask after a few glasses of wine as they sit in tidy living rooms, gathered for book club.   But these people know nothing of true monsters.  They will never have to make the choices Amy has made. The fluorescent lights in the kitchen buzz and flicker.  Amy takes a deep breath, looks out the kitchen window. Beyond the gravel driveway, past the two ruined motel buildings with their sagging, swaybacked roofs, the tower leans precariously.  Made of cement and stone, it was built by her grandfather all those years ago as a gift for her grandmother Charlotte.  Her own Tower of London. Amy thinks, as she often does, of that long ago summer when she was twelve.  Of Piper and Margot and the day they found the suitcase; of how after that, nothing was ever the same.  Where was Piper now?  Out in California somewhere, surrounded by palm trees and glamorous people, living a life Amy couldn't even imagine.  Amy suddenly longs to talk to her, to confide in her and ask for forgiveness, to say, "Don't you see this is what I have to do?" She thinks that Piper and Margot might understand if she could tell them the whole story, starting with the suitcase and working forward. But mostly, what she wishes, is that she could find a way to warn them.  She glances at the old photo in her hand, takes a black marker from a kitchen drawer, and hastily writes a message along the bottom, over the chickens and patterned summer dresses. Then she tucks the photograph into her back pocket and goes to the window. The clock on the stove says 12:15 am.   Down at the tower, a shadow lurches from the open doorway.  She's out of time.  Moving into the hallway, she latches the deadbolt on the front door (silly, really--a locked door will do no good), then stops at the closet and grabs her grandfather's old Winchester.  Rifle in hand, she climbs the stairs, the same stairs she's climbed her whole life.  She thinks she can hear young Piper and Margot following behind her, whispering, warning her, telling her--as they did all those years ago--to forget all about it, that there is no 29th room.    Amy takes each step slowly, willing herself not to run, to stay calm and not wake her family.  What would Mark think if he woke up and found his wife creeping up the steps with a gun?  Poor, sweet, clueless Mark--perhaps she should have told him the motel's secrets?  But no.  It was better to protect him from it all as best she could. The scarred wood beneath her feet creaks and she thinks of the rhyme her grandmother taught her:    When Death comes knocking on your door, you'll think you've seen his face before. When he comes creeping up your stairs, you'll know him from your dark nightmares. And if you hold up a mirror, you shall see, That he is you and you are he. Excerpted from The Night Sister: A Novel by Jennifer McMahon All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.