This is my first experience of Fitt’s work, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, though in a nutshell I would now say to expect the unexpected. The entire book takes place over 8 or so hours and is set at the New Year’s Eve party of sculptress Claribel. This is a tale of several overlapping mysteries. Firstly, why are so many people not keen to attend the party, but still drop all prior arrangements? Secondly there are the three sisters who arrive at the party. Yet these are no three elderly spinsters, but are a young trio, with more than a dab of mystery surrounding them. Who are they? Why did Claribel invite them and why did they come? The final mystery concerns the consequences of the relationships which radically alter during the party. Love is lost and won, power and control equally change hands a number of times and all the while events are picking up pace towards the midnight hour, when the sisters need to leave. But what will they leave in their wake?
I have tried to be circumspect in my synopsis. Not only because it is hard to summarise adequately anyways, but because it has such an interlinking plot, that it would be easy to say too much and spoil new readers’ enjoyment of it.
But as you can probably infer, this story does not have a conventional or traditional puzzle mystery structure. It is very much a book of events leading to something, rather than events following on from something. The party setting is used really successfully and in a way that feels quite fresh. Fitt has a wonderful ability to convey much through her dialogue and a lot of what you learn in the first half of the book at least, comes indirectly from conversational clues.
Whilst Claribel is the first name and character we have to contend with, and other characters are only slowly given names and individualised from their collective term of “the guests,” we in fact don’t spend that much direct narrative time with Claribel. Instead we have to build up a picture of her, based on what others say of her. Not until near the end of the book, do we get inside Claribel’s head, which interestingly converges and disagrees alternately with what those around her think. Claribel may start out as your typical domineering hostess, with a talent for getting her claws into people psychologically, but as the party starts unravelling, we get to see her in a different light.
Of course, something must be said about the eponymous sisters, whose number does carry a reminiscence of Macbeth. They are more than three pretty individuals though, with an unusual backstory, which is only slowly offered out, and the reader will gradually find something more sinister creeping in. All of this helps to generate the fairy tale quality this book has, along with the suitable night-time setting and the way the three sisters seem to each attach themselves to a male guest. But don’t be fool by these romcom vibes! This is definitely a fairy tale with a sting in its tale!
Another key element which adds to the tension and atmosphere of the piece is Fitt’s inclusion of the game of Murder! This is not new to the world of crime fiction, but the author’s handling of this trope is decidedly inventive and not quite what you expect. Though the darkness the game is played in, certainly mirrors the darkness seeping out of the characters.
I think readers near the end will have some inkling as to what will happen, but I don’t think they will have it all figured out. There is still much to be uncovered! I would say this is my best read of the month so far and would definitely recommend tracking it down.
Just the Facts Ma’am (Gold Card): During a recognised holiday
Calendar of Crime: January (4) New Year’s