Elle Marr tells the story of twin sisters, nefarious dealings, deaths, and the catacombs of Paris in her debut mystery, The Missing Sister. She gathers plenty of action and plot points, with a unique cast of characters in an iconic city. Mix it up, and you’ve got a successful read!
Shayna Darby arrives in Paris, but not for vacation. Instead, she must identify her twin sister’s body. And she’s thrown off by more than the 9-hour time change from their San Diego home. Her twin, named Angela, is first presumed missing and then found floating in the Seine River. Not an easy introduction to Paris for Shayna.
Upon her arrival, Shayna starts encountering a varied group of folks—from an American Embassy intern to Angela’s most recent boyfriend. The landlady pops her head out briefly, and Shayna is still out of sorts with emotion and travel.
Amazingly, she finds a message that could only be meant for her. Trust. No. One.
Sorting out the truth and determining her sister’s fate is all Shayna can do now. In a city she doesn’t know, and in a language she doesn’t speak.
Angela and Shayna have a challenging relationship, just like many siblings. The history between them, told from only one perspective, complicates everything about Shayna’s hunt for the truth. When all that history starts to bleed into the story, Marr gets a bit bogged down.
There’s also an extended section in the middle that was ridiculously frustrating! Shayna is about enter medical school. She parades into the story with smarts and analysis skills. And then it all goes south as she flounders about. Yes, she is solving a complex mystery with literally one slim clue. But nothing about her search is methodical or logical. Suddenly the “logical twin” is stuck in emotional quagmire.
What I loved about the story was the unique characters. Marr gives Angela’s landlady a shadow of a back story that made me fall in love with her. (Please write a book about her story next!) The French Inspector is brusque and stern, while the Embassy intern offers Shayna a chance to connect with her emotions. Angela has good friends who want to help. And then there’s the boyfriend, who cries tears of pain and helps Shayna sort through the apartment. I couldn’t stop thinking, “What if this person or that person is the bad guy?”
Marr puts the puzzle together with last minute surprises and some unique connections to history. Speaking of history, I wanted the locations in Paris to be more evocative and almost a character unto themselves. Despite setting many scenes in the famous Catacombs, the rest of the city just didn’t sparkle with its true distinctiveness.
Still, if you like a sibling-related mystery and some armchair travel, this is a fun ride. I’ll definitely keep a watch for more books from Elle Marr.
Pair with The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield for another twin-connected mystery. For a nonfiction historical perspective on Paris, try City of Light, City of Poison: Murder, Magic, and the First Police Chief of Paris by Holly Tucker