Special ed teacher Neil Richards is offered an unusual, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To teach twelve-year-old twin sisters, Alpha and Beta, who reside in the research annex of a hospital. The twins have been at Mandicott all their lives, never stepping outside their living quarters because they’re conjoined near the waist, sharing one set of legs, which Beta has control of.
The team involved with the twins includes Dr. Endermo, who heads up the facility, Dr. Henderson, a geneticist, and Dr. Weber, a psychologist. Despite a couple of moments of bad vibes during his interview, Neil accepts the job and asks to start right away. He finds Beta to be a fairly typical twelve-year-old. Alpha, though, has a higher IQ, a harder edge, and is the dominant personality. After his first lesson with them, he suspects the girls, or at least Alpha, have psychic abilities. When the woman who cooks for the twins dies in a freak accident, Neil’s suspicions grow, believing the girls killed her, as well as their former psychologist. After both Neil and Dr. Weber suffer strange experiences, they start digging for more information, convinced more is going on at the institute than pure medical research. As a result, they grow increasingly mistrustful of the other team members and even the twins themselves.
Something of a medical thriller, this is a very quick read that isn’t bogged down by long descriptive passages or clinical terminology. The sparse use of medical jargon makes sense, since Neil isn’t a doctor and it’s his story we’re following. However, things happen awfully fast, almost too abruptly. Neil is instantly attracted to the psychologist, Tania Weber, who initially tries to keep things professional, but succumbs to her attraction to him soon enough. Another example is his suspicion after one teaching session. A slow build-up would have been better, but since a lot of things were telegraphed in the first chapter, it doesn’t matter. I also have issues with the lax security in the facility, both inside and out. Exterior side and back doors are left unlocked at all hours, which seems strange, and don’t get me started on rooms within the annex.
This book was originally published in 1992, but the edition I read was more recent, with slight revisions that were frankly distracting. In early chapters, there were mentions of technology that either didn’t exist in 1992 (iPods, iPads, iPhones) or were relatively new, expensive, or not yet ubiquitous (laptops, internet, cellphones). The inclusion of these items was unnecessary, since they’re forgotten later on and don’t play into the story. A minor complaint, but I suppose it doesn’t matter if you’re unaware of the original publication date. Personally, I don’t care for updates to existing works, they lose something, a feeling of authenticity to the time they were written. More annoying is that technology that was available at the time isn’t utilized at all in the story, such as access badges or swipe cards for the research facility, and security cameras. By casually shoehorning in 21st century tech, it makes the absence of what existed and should be there pretty glaring.
With shades of Firestarter and The Fury, Sister, Sister is a quick, easy read with one disturbing scene. Neither spectacular, nor awful, it’s okay, but reads more like a novelization of a movie. If you think of it in that way, as a movie with the story playing out in 90 or 105 minutes, the lighting quick pacing of events/plot developments is a little easier to accept. There’s worse out there. *** out of 5
(Note: The e-book (Kindle) edition of this book is riddled with formatting and typographical errors that make it a less than enjoyable reading experience. It’s atrocious, the worst I’ve seen.)