What I love about Orenda Books is their ability to find so many books that are so uniquely wonderful. So many books must cross the desks of Karen Sullivan and her staff and yet they still manage to pluck so many needles out of the proverbial haystack to provide avid readers like myself with the most sumptuous narratives that blow our minds every time. The Other Twin by L V Hay is another such needle.
Poppy Rutledge awakes from a drunken sexual encounter one morning to find that her mother has left her countless messages and texts demanding a call. Poppy’s sister India has committed suicide and Poppy returns home to Brighton to a mysterious set of circumstances that make Poppy believe that perhaps India did not commit suicide after all. India’s cryptic blog posts add to the mystery and if Poppy can just unravel who India is referring to in her strange posts, she might be able to get some answers.
Nothing is as it seems in this novel. Hay builds up the narrative with India’s blog posts, chapters where there is a mysterious man and woman having conversations that seem to link to India’s demise and of course, Poppy’s own story. Poppy tries to unpick India’s life, having left Brighton for London four years earlier against the wishes of her then boyfriend, Matthew, and India too. Poppy’s own relationship with her family, and Matthew and his family, is often a barrier to the truth, a clever device by Hay to build the suspense and to make things difficult for Poppy.
Hay uses the theme of identity throughout to confuse the reader so they are not sure who can be trusted and what impact they have on the suicide/murder of India Rutledge. The four years that Poppy has been away distances her from the people she was once so close to, so her thoughts on her former friends and family are unreliable. Poppy herself is troubled about who she has become, but is determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, to become the sister and daughter that she feels she has neglected to be since she left Brighton. She is reminded of her life before and the people in it, who seem equally uneasy with themselves, further adding to the sense that no-one can really be trusted to be completely honest.
The Other Twin is a truly brilliant novel that surprises the reader at every turn. The web of suspense is woven so tightly, there are few clues to the outcome of the story that are obvious on first read, which makes this such a fulfilling and enjoyable reading experience. Like many Orenda novels, The Other Twin is one of those books that you wish you could re-read without already knowing the ending. However, there is the added bonus of being able to read it again, but this time being able to place all the characters who on first read have remained anonymous. Hay is a magnificent writer who enchants the reader from page one and The Other Twin is definitely up there as one of my favourite books of the year so far.