Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira

February 21st, 2018 Kimberly Guest Post, Review 40 Comments

21st Feb
Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira
Winter Sisters
by Robin Oliveira
Series: Mary Sutter #2
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Source: Publisher
Purchase: Amazon
Goodreads
Rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

From the New York Times bestselling author of My Name Is Mary Sutter comes a rich and compelling historical novel about the disappearance of two young girls after a cataclysmic blizzard, and what happens when their fate is discovered

New York, 1879: After an epic snow storm ravages the city of Albany, Dr. Mary Sutter, a former Civil War surgeon, begins a search for two little girls, the daughters of close friends killed by the storm who have vanished without a trace.

Mary's mother and niece Elizabeth, who has been studying violin in Paris, return to Albany upon learning of the girls' disappearance--but Elizabeth has another reason for wanting to come home, one she is not willing to reveal. Despite resistance from the community, who believe the girls to be dead, the family persists in their efforts to find the two sisters. When what happened to them is revealed, the uproar that ensues tears apart families, reputations, and even the social fabric of the city, exposing dark secrets about some of the most powerful of its citizens, and putting fragile loves and lives at great risk.

BOOKLOVE historical mystery SUSPENSE

Please welcome Sophia Rose to Caffeinated as she takes us to Albany, New York in 1879 for a historical fiction wrapped in mystery. Come check out Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira.

Sophia Rose’s Review

Albany, New York of 1879, an apocryphal unexpected blizzard, missing sisters, and an unspeakable act is set in motion.

Winter Sisters is the follow-up tale to My Name Is Mary Sutter. The events take place fourteen years after the end of the previous book. I had not read book one but did just fine starting with Winter Sisters. That said, this one would no doubt be spoiler-ish for My Name Is Mary Sutter as it recaps some of the past to set up for the events of Winter Sisters. I still plan to go back to Mary Sutter’s earlier story because I want to know and feel that one after this one.

So, Winter Sisters!

Wooboy, this was something. It is historical fiction and it is a mystery. It paints a vivid picture of the times and the people of Albany, New York. The author’s love for her hometown and her research shine through in this one. She brought this place to life, warts and all.

The story has an ominous tone as it slowly sets up for what is to come (be patient at the beginning). As a reader, my interest was given a gentle tug at first that grew and grew until I was gripped tight in this story. I don’t think I even breathed a few times near the end as I waited to see the culmination of all that had come before. It’s not heart-pounding danger and action, though there are moments of that, but just the build of a plot to its climax point that was deftly achieved.

The main plot centers around the disappearance of two young girls during a blizzard and then eventually what happened to them later during the spring thaw of the river and the subsequent flood. There are other plots circling around the central mystery. Mary’s ongoing fight for women’s health issues, Elizabeth’s private crisis over her musical talent, the Van Der Veer’s home situation, and more. They weave together quite well and the transitions were gentle between so I was not taken out of the story.

The mystery doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I loved how the historical setting and societal norms play a strong role. The author shows how things were thought about and handled back then from Mary’s reception by a misogynist police captain to the reaction of the city’s privileged, to the light shone on the lowly world of the prostitutes, to a woman’s lot in general from privileged wealth, and to children in that day. The real eyeopener for me was the take on medicine, mental health, and criminal law regarding the elements around the mystery. Let’s just say we have come far since then. Though, I know there are parallels of needed reform still in modern times. I’m deliberately being cagey about the plot because there are some real shockers and I don’t want to ruin it for potential readers.

The characters are vivid and colorful but are drawn with humanity in its strengths, weaknesses, good and terrible evil. The narrative shifts about from an unknown omniscient narrator to specific characters thoughts.

Mary is a central figure though she shares the limelight with others. I can’t address how far she has come since the earlier part of her story in book one, but I imagine existing fans will be delighted to encounter a middle-aged Mary and how she has stayed true to herself. She is a female doctor with high intelligence, drive, and unapologetic. She earns respect, but also fear wherever she goes. People, like the police chief, the head surgeon at the city hospital, and Gerrit Van der Veer bristle and try to dominate her when she inadvertently holds up a mirror where they see their weakness and inferiority in the face of her spirit, heroism, and drive. Mary is a voice for those who have no voice. She was an amazing character as were those who were close to her for loving her and wanting her just the way she was.

In some books, multiple narrators can feel dizzying and confusing, but for Winter Sisters, it really was a good choice. Getting the different points of view and how they saw the events didn’t diminish or distract but added so many layers. I think it made the story more visceral so I felt the punch of it, but it also gave me a break at times from the harsher and darker element. Elizabeth and Jakob’s courtship was sweet and I loved seeing Mary and William partnering in a more mature relationship.

All in all, I thought Winter Sisters was a fabulous and lush example of historical fiction and mystery blended well. I highly recommend it for those who enjoy strong female leads and American history of the late nineteenth century.

Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira transports readers to 1879 Albany, New York and delivers a fictional historical mystery with strong female leads and rich look at the period. Click To Tweet

About Robin Oliveira

Robin Oliveira

Robin Oliveira grew up just outside Albany, New York in Loudonville. She holds a B.A. in Russian, and studied at the Pushkin Language Institute in Moscow, Russia. She is also a Registered Nurse, specializing in Critical Care and Bone Marrow Transplant. She received an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the fiction editor for the literary magazine upstreet and a former assistant editor at Narrative Magazine. She was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship in 2007 for her then novel-in-progress, THE LAST BEAUTIFUL DAY, an excerpt of which appeared in the 2008 issue of Provincetown Arts. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her family.”

About Sophia Rose

Sophia Rose

Sophia is a quiet though curious gal who dabbles in cooking, book reviewing, and gardening. Encouraged and supported by an incredible man and loving family. A Northern Californian transplant to the Great Lakes Region of the US. Lover of Jane Austen, Baseball, Cats, Scooby Doo, and Chocolate. Associate Reviewer for Delighted Reader blog.

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About Kimberly
Kimberly is a coffee loving book addict who reads and listens to fictional stories in all genres. She's a self-professed Whovian, as well as a Supernatural, and Sherlock Holmes junkie, She enjoys sharing books, tips, recipes and hosting the Sunday Post. The coffee is always on and she is ready to chat...Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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40 Responses to “Winter Sisters by Robin Oliveira”

  1. Lily

    I have been on a huge HR kick lately. I have a physical copy of this and was looking for some time to read it, I’ll try to get to it sooner now that I read this lovely review.

  2. JoLee

    That is awesome the author was able to have multiple narrators and did a good job. Do not see that a lot where is works out. Sometimes it is too much going on.

    • Sophia Rose

      Yes, exactly! Usually, my head is reeling when I get more than two narrators, but this one delineated the breaks well and had such individual voices even while adding nice nuances like all parts of a whole so it was well done.

    • Sophia Rose

      I think this one is a good one for folks who don’t particularly gravitate toward HF, but want to try it now and then b/c it comes with the great mystery element.

  3. Stormi Johnson

    I didn’t read much but since you enjoyed it I went and put the first one on hold on overdrive as I try my best to go in order. πŸ™‚

    • Sophia Rose

      My library has book one, too. I’m definitely going back for it. I think book one is not a mystery, but it does sound good since its set during the Civil War.

    • Sophia Rose

      It was scrumptious, Debbie. I definitely want to go back for the first book though I’m not sure its a mystery, but it is Civil War. πŸ˜‰

    • Sophia Rose

      I’ve been in the mood for some time and grabbed up a stack of them. This was a first time author and series for me and it worked out well, Katherine!

  4. Kari @ Kari Reads and Writes

    A great historical mystery, ooh, I’m in! I really want to read this one now, even though I didn’t read Mary Sutter first. I do like this genre but don’t always find titles that appeal to me. Thanks Sophia Rose, for your review!

  5. Lorna

    This one sounds so intriguing. You have my mind wondering all sorts of things about the little girls. And the horrible storm. I like that it’s a historical mystery. I’ve been watching The Alienist on tv and it’s a historical mystery with children as victims. It’s excellent. Anyway, great review!

    • Sophia Rose

      Oh yes, I’ve caught some of the Alienist and thought it was great that they did a TV series for a historical mystery.
      This one would actually make a good TV adaption, I think.

  6. Laura Thomas

    Wonderful review. Historical mysteries aren’t something I read that often, which is odd since I love watching movies in the genre. This sounds like one I’d find hard to put down.

    • Sophia Rose

      Yes, the multiple narrators doesn’t always work for me, but in this case, it was like getting extra perspective on a situation rather than a distraction especially during the upheaval of discovery.

  7. AngelErin

    I don’t think I’ve heard of this one at all, but it does sound good! I like historical novels from time to time.

  8. Mary

    This sounds really good. I loved your review! I love a good mystery and for it to be historical is even better!

    • Sophia Rose

      Sure thing, Mary!

      I was thrilled when it was offered to me since I was already curious about the author’s earlier book.

  9. Silvia

    Historical fiction and mystery can be a powerful and very interesting mix, so you can see why this one sounds good to me! Thanks for reviewing and putting a new title under my nose πŸ™‚

  10. Vanessa

    I’m honestly not yet comfortable with historical genre but if it’s with suspense and mystery, I’m in!

    • Sophia Rose

      I can see not wanting all the history especially if its for somewhere else. But yes, this one has some great suspense and mystery with it. πŸ™‚